A View from Erica Naone

Why No Flash in the iPad?

Apple may be shutting out Flash–and much of the Web–to protect the App Store.

  • January 28, 2010

When Apple revealed the iPad many people were quick to point out that, like the iPhone, it lacks support for Adobe’s Flash software. It’s a little shocking that a device Apple has billed as “the best way to experience Web, e-mail, and photos” doesn’t support such a important and commonly used Web plug-in.

Flash is sometimes cited as a security concern, but it’s hard to believe that Apple, with all its engineering and design genius, couldn’t find a way to address that issue without blocking off so much functionality.

Adobe certainly seems indignant. Adrian Ludwig, Adobe’s group manager of Flash Platform product marketing, wrote in a blog post:

[…] without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web. If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab–not to mention the millions of other sites on the web–I’ll be out of luck.

Adobe does have a solution for frustrated developers. Its Packager for iPhone software converts applications written in ActionScript 3 to a format that will run on the iPhone. In fact, this solution may shed some light on why Apple chose to block Flash in the first place.

Perhaps, if Flash were supported, and it were easy to access rich applications through the browser, users wouldn’t download quite so much from the App Store. Earlier this week, by launching a Web version of its Google Voice software, Google showed exactly how disruptive a powerful web application can be to Apple’s tight control over the software that runs on its devices.

Google turned to HTML 5 to power this application through the browser, but Flash is even more powerful and versatile. Apple may hope to keep developers focused on tailoring software for its hardware, rather than building them on a more ubiquitous platform–the Web.

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