No Flash Hurting Apple’s iPad

I had the opportunity to speak at yesterday’s MN.SWF / Adobe event here in Minnesota.  This market (sometimes referred to as flyover country) is actually one of the top five largest media production markets in the U.S. and has a strong base of interactive designers and developers.  The topic dominating the discussion was Apple’s decision to go Flash-free on the iPhone, and now on their recently released iPad.

The irony is that many (if not a majority) of the audience are Mac users and had their Mac Books Pros out while at the same time voicing discourse and displeasure on Apple’s dearth of Flash.  Here are some bullet points from the event:

  • Apple is not just displacing Flash, but also the creative work and technology used by many of its own customers
  • Apple has made this decision primarily due to a desire to own/control their products and platforms, despite opposing customer voices
  • Apple says the iPad a better browsing experience, yet exactly zero websites with Flash can display a true website experience
  • Apple is pushing for HTML5
  • Apple is happy to make this issue a Flash vs. HTML5 fight
  • There was a consensus from the audience that is NOT the fight, but is a Flash AND HTLM5 fight
  • Steve Jobs is conceited

If the event was a barometer, there are a lot of pissed off technologists who are second-guessing Apple.  These are the same technologists (and dare I say fanboys?) who contributed to Apple’s tremendous success over the last four years.  All of the arguments that Apple made for not having Flash on iPhone have gone away with the advent of iPad, and yet Flash is missing.

A recent sentiment survey published by TechCrunch shows that the #2 reason people are unhappy with the iPad is that it’s missing Flash.  Yet, other than preserving control in the marketplace, there is now reason (from a hardware perspective) that Flash shouldn’t be on the iPad.

Results this morning show that Apple sold 200k to 300k iPad’s since it’s release.  Those are some brisk sales, but I think it’s questionable whether Apple will be able to duplicate and sustain the sales success of iPhone.  Once the early adopters buy onto iPad, all that might be left are those who carry an expectation on a tablet device they’ll get the same experience they get on the web (for example the HP Slate).

This device is not a paradigm shift.  It is not rocket science.  It is merely a convergence of screens.  The fact that it is so limited — Flash has over 97% penetration on the web — I think it is inevitable that it puts a dent in iPad’s long-term prospects.  For a competitor to differentiate from the iPad, all they need to do is enable Flash.

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