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the iPad vs Flash: A tragic tale of hope lost

Apple iPad vs. Adobe Flash

Apple product launch days always start with a wave of crazy anticipation; tech fans hold their collective breath when Steve Jobs is launching a new mysterious product. But really the only things still mysterious about Apple’s new tablet computer were the finer points: Would the iPad have a webcam for video chat? Would it run Adobe Flash? Would it give you the best web experience ever, with 10 weeks of battery life, all while curing world hunger and giving your car 75 miles to the gallon? Was it going to revolutionize the way we compute? I was hoping for a yes on at least one of those; then I might be able to justify buying one. And I really do want to have a reason.

I haven’t been able to find a reason yet, which makes me a little sad because this tablet looks awesome. The biggest deal-killer for me: It can’t run Adobe’s Flash plug-in. You know, the one most video players on the web are using? The little plug-in that 99% of the U.S. has installed on their computers? Yeah that one. It isn’t on the iPhone either, which I’ve learned to live with. The iPhone screen real estate is small, and Flash can be a real memory hog; both of which are in short supply on most smart phones. But the iPad is supposed to show the full web, the real web, not some downgraded mobile version. It is supposed to be the slayer of netbooks, but I could get a netbook with a webcam, flash support, and a complete operating system for $300 bucks… last year.

So why no Flash support on the iPad? In my opinion it’s all about the money. Apple has positioned themselves deep in the digital distribution game, and they don’t make a dime when you listen to music on Pandora, catch TV shows on Hulu, or watch movies with Netflix. Steve Jobs says HTML5 is the future, and he is right. But it isn’t now, and it won’t be for quite some time. The big browsers can’t even agree on which codec to use with the video tag. So Jobs is hoping I wont mind dealing with the watered-down web, but when you are trying to convince me I need to buy a tablet computer to do what I’m already doing on my laptop or iPhone, it at least should let me use the web the way I want to.

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