Bashing or Flashing the iPad?

Posted by Pieter Kubben in Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Last week Apple introduced the iPad, a tablet device in the middle between iPod/iPhone and MacBook computers. Immediately there were many responses on the web, both positive and negative. Let’s start with the funniest one that touches the topic we’ll discuss in detail.

A comment that kept coming back in many reactions, is the lack of Flash support. Whether the topic is 8 Things That Suck About The iPad or iwantflash.com, the message is the same as the blogs from Adobe people like Serge Jespers and The Flash Blog: Flash should be added to the iPad!

But should it? Apple’s official comment after iPhone release has been that Flash was too resource consuming, and for a phone that comment has been accepted. In the meantime anyone who has been following the App Store development and Steve Job’s keynotes knows that the App Store is a lucrative initiative, and allowing websites to display Flash-based games (especially games) will reduce Apple income. All right, that’s business, isn’t it?

The Apple iPad has been described as “impossibly fast” with Apple’s own A4 processor. BBC has high expectations of the new device, as has The Guardian. And from a medical perspective, opinions are mixed. John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School, is in doubt about the success in healthcare, doc2doc is more negative. The same can be said for Healthcare IT Squad.

What is my opinion, as an IT-minded medical doctor? I am looking forward to the iPad, but in the first place because I want an affordable color-enabled e-reader for scientific literature. Second, this e-reader (or iReader, as you want) is programmable to perform tasks. Which could support guideline implementation. Whether you call this e-guidelines or clinical decision supporting systems, is up to you. As long as we both know what we’re talking about.

Is Flash necessary for that? No, but it would help. I fully agree with the excellent post of John Nack, and as a Flex-developer I definitely would like to program in Flex and ActionScript. I am really not fond of Objective C, it’s unneccesarily complicated. Who needs a separate @interface and @implementation?

Adobe’s initiative of the Open Screen Project is good. Even better, I think it is very good, and I am glad that companies like Google, HTC, Nokia and RIM are supporting it. On the other hand, depending on the sort of application, Flash may be just “too much”. I work on a new MacBook Pro model, but remaining battery really goes down if I have some Flash sites open. As much as CPU usage and core temperature goes up. So it perfectly understandable that the new mobile Firefox will disable the Flash plugin as the default setting. Reason: too much energy consuming. Although Mozilla offers a good alternative: you can choose to enable it, but then on your own responsibility.

So I do have some suggestions for developers, Apple and Adobe.

    To developers: I have high expectations from Adobe’s Flash Player 10.1 in combination with the Open Screen Project. I think Adobe’s technologies are very promising, targeting almost all devices, except the iPhone and the iPad. For those latter two, you have alternatives besides XCode. Flash CS5 will provide export as native iPhone apps, OpenPlug’s Elips Studio 3 seems a fantastic tool for Flex developers who want to do iPhone development, and there is always the alternative to keep apps purely web-based. This skips the App Store, which you may like for reasons described on O’Reilly Radar here and here, as well as on Adobe’s Flash platform blog.
    To Apple: you make wonderful hardware and software, and in the first place I think it is your right to determine how you want to incorporate your software on your hardware. But for the future, I think you do need to offer people choices. You have been criticized for coupling the iPhone to just one telecom provider, and you had to let go of your strict criteria. Don’t make countries create laws for open and accessible platforms. Offer people choices. If you want them to pay for that, that’s your right. But let them choose. Look at what Firefox did, and learn a lesson. Allow people to install Flash on their own risk, of wich decreased system performance might be the major one for badly designed websites. These are included in the web experience you promise us on the iPad, but that’s not delivered now.
    To Adobe: stop whining. If Apple decides not to offer Flash, that’s too bad for all of us, but let’s find an alternative then. Your CS5 iPhone efforts and OpenPlug’s efforts show one opportunity. Google Web Toolkit (GWT) shows you the other. For the App Store, converting ActionScript code for rich media content to Objective C is the best you can do now. Focus on that, because Apple will allow native iPhone apps in the App Store. Of course. For web content, find a way to do the same with ActionScript that GWT does with Java: convert it to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. That won’t work for everything, but I think that many decent Flex apps could work this way. Then you can win the battle: rich media content goes the the App Store with a separate notice on the website, if viewed on the iPhone. Flex-driven apps can be translated “a la GWT” and are visible as well. Maybe with some inconsistencies due to different browsers and JavaScript versions, but that’s still beter than no Flash (or no up to date Flash) at all.

So to answer my own question: bashing or flashing the iPad? Neither of both! Looks like a nice iReader+ to me, with basic web capabilities and some iPhone features. One that’s fast, has no booting time, and with a large screen. And one that runs Papers! That’s not bad, is it?

6 Responses to Bashing or Flashing the iPad?

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  2. Bob says:

    Flash is on it’s way out. It is buggy and a resource hog. Non of the big companies are pushing it either (Microsoft, Apple, Google). HTML 5 is the new, ‘open’ non proprietary standard.

  3. Thx for your comment. I agree that HTML5 should be better than Flash, but it will take several years from now before that’s up and running. Until then, I think Flash still is a powerful player. And Google does support the Open Screen Project:
    http://www.openscreenproject.org/partners/current_partners.html

    Curious to see how the Flash evolution will go when HTML5 comes closer…

  4. Matthew Fabb says:

    At Adobe MAX 09′s sneak peaks Adobe demoed copying a section of animation, outputting it as FXG and then loading it into Dreamweaver, to be displayed in the Canvas tag for browsers that support it. Search for Flash, FXG and Dreamweaver on YouTube and you should be able to find video of this demo.

    However, this is only going to work for basic Flash animations. In other words, I imagine we will be seeing this eventually in banner ads for users who don’t have Flash, but have support for the canvas tag.

    However, porting the Flex framework would be quite difficult and many features just wouldn’t work in JavaScript. I imagine if Adobe did try to port this over it would take many years for them to get it working.

    Still, I imagine we will see plenty of HTML5 features made available in Dreamweaver CS5.

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  6. @Matthew: I don’t understand why it has to take years if Google can do such a thing with GWT. And I haven’t said that it will be easy. Still, I don’t know if it’s a good idea to put all the money on the Flash-horse. Maybe, the HTML runner-up will steal the show in some time. Maybe start investing already…

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