iPad Flash decision: bad blast from the past

Reviews for Apple’s iPad are all over the place. Personally, I feel that tablets have tried and failed enough times in the general consumer market to call the concept dead. iPad will likely find adoption in the same niche’s as its predecessors: hospitals and other similar venues where it can effectively replace a manilla folder of documents.

Instead, I find the lack of Flash support more interesting to consider. This seems like a terrible omission for a device that Jobs touts as “the best browsing experience you’ve ever had” (around 3:10). I don’t know about you, but my browsing experience would be far less than perfect without access to the de facto standard video streaming technology.

The decision was apparently made due to compatibility problems

Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash. The world is moving to HTML5.

That may be where the web world is headed, but the iPad is entering a market nowhere near that reality. This just screams classic Apple mindset. They may share the mantra “Everyone else’s stuff is crap” with Microsoft, but Apple tacks the phrase “and that’s why you can’t use it,” onto the end.

I thought that Apple had figured out the market, how to balance a closed platform in order to maintain stability and skyrocket profitability. The Flash decision definitely throws that balance off kilter, and now I’m curious to see if they’ll fall back into the decision-making style of the PC wars in the late 80’s and early 90’s (Note to the kiddies: Mac wasn’t always “cool.” They lost a lot of weight and their acne cleared up just as you entered buying age).

They can get away with dictatorial control over platforms like the iPod and iPhone because they are very focused devices. However iPad is a closer technical cousin to the laptop than the smartphone, and the last few years of App Store and iTunes revenue may be skewing their vision on this one.

My gut tells me they are using iPad to push public perception away from Flash and toward HTML5. There’s no way they’ll make such a play on the Mac platform, but the iPad offers very controlled environment to test the waters. If people (continue to) complain, they’ll publish the iPad Flash patch that they’ve already got sitting on the shelf. Trust me, it’s there.

Update: This image sums up the problem for me quite nicely.

ipad vs netbook bullet list