Web Applications on the iPad

Wolfire writes: “Today, Apple announced the new iPad and humbly claimed that there will be a “gold rush” of native apps for the App Store. Sure, but what I find more interesting is that Apple also ironically created the most promising open web app platform, which may eventually undermine the App Store itself. […] The iPad is the first mainstream device which combines all of the following factors: reasonably powerful hardware, a (potentially) huge user base, a mature WebKit implementation, and constant 3G internet capabilities. All the dominoes are in place, and I think that the iPad will knock the first one down.”

And I’m inclined to agree. Let’s first start by making a straight forward assumption to work with: Apple’s goal is quite clear—they want this to be at least as successful as the iPhone. Let’s imagine that it is—that for all the winging of geeks—just like the iPhone the iPad goes on to absolutely dominate mindshare.

That makes a sizeable, affluent, and important market group that does not have Flash, nor can they even get it. This is serious. You can bet Adobe are not happy one bit. They sell expensive tools that cannot target this market group and any web developer with half a brain will realise that Flash is best avoided as there is no way you can develop with it and support the iPhone and iPad, and may as well code using HTML5 / SVG instead of duplicating effort.

Success of the iPad [and/or ChromeOS] will ensure a sea-change of web developer habits. If company X asks you to develop a website and it can’t support the iPhone/iPad, then what the crap are they paying you for? They’ll hire someone who has ‘iPhone/iPad’ on their CV.

No Flash means that you cannot distribute video with Flash. Think of that. How many sites a day do you come across that use Flash just to play video? They are turning away customers if they can’t support the iPad—and that means only one solution: HTML5 video.

Or more accurately—H.264 video, because Apple don’t support anything else. That is most worrying. If you are a small developer with a personal site and you want to get video to iPhone/iPad users, you are forced to use a riskily licenced video codec that means by 2011 you could end up with men in black suits knocking on your door demanding payment. Apple are encouraging a web where by only the major players can participate.

What about advertising? Ads use Flash all the time (much to the annoyance of users). Flash advertising has always made the assumption that everybody has the optional Flash runtime. It may be near ubiquitous, but Flash is not made by Microsoft, it’s not made by Apple. It’s purely a third party plugin and always has been.

I am not stealing from advertisers if they happen to use a delivery mechanism that I don’t have.

The iPad not having Flash is a serious concern to many. The majority of sites (or more accurately, advertising companies) now have to contend with a market group that do not have Flash. How are they going to advertise to them!?

The writing is on the wall already. If the change the iPhone instigated in mobile web browsing usage (much to AT&Ts surprise) is anything to go by then prepare for a surge of web-app usage unlike anything seen before; and this time there is no Internet Explorer to even speak of. Doing it properly is going to be the only way to do it.

Update: Via John Gruber, Adobe have blogged about the ‘omission’ of Flash.

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 and more than 50 of our partners in the Open Screen Project are working to enable developers and content publishers to deliver to any device, so that consumers have open access to their favorite interactive media, content, and applications across platform, regardless of the device that people choose to use.

My reply?

And Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate and JibJab will move away from Flash and to either HTML5 video or native applications if the iPad becomes as popular as the iPhone.

Your Open Screen Project is a spear head to ensure the continued use of Flash where it doesn’t belong. I’ve created Video for Everybody, which does truly play video “across platform, regardless of the device that people choose to use” because it uses HTML5 video where available and falls back to Flash where not available, all without JavaScript. Video for Everybody plays on the iPhone and by extension the iPad.


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