Bashing or Flashing the iPad?
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
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.
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?