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Why Apple's War on Adobe Flash Is Premature


Although a buggy burden, Flash is still a necessary evil.

It's been two days and the hype is starting to wane. As tech analysts and potential customers are poring over the features of Apple's (AAPL) long-awaited iPad, the lamentable aspects are being both bemoaned by critics and justified by fanboys. (See Apple Unveils the Sadly Underwhelming iPad)

"I can't believe 3G is extra and AT&T (T) is the sole provider!"

"That's to keep prices low on the basic Wi-Fi model! And Verizon (VZ) wouldn't be any better!"

"Where's the front-facing camera?"

"A tablet computer was never meant for video conferencing! You want that? Get a laptop!"

"And what about multitasking?!"

"Yeah. Well..."

But for all the missing USB ports and locked-down software, one omission continues Apple's steadfast aversion to a prevalent aspect of the Web: Adobe Flash (ADBE). Alongside the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad won't be able to access Flash-enabled content on millions of sites.

Just how prevalent is the platform? The first two sites Steve Jobs visited during the iPad's unveiling -- The New York Times and Time magazine -- conspicuously displayed error messages in place of a Flash slideshow. It was a gaffe even a CEO couldn't avoid while championing his mobile device -- but also an aspect for which Jobs would never apologize.

Certainly, there are justifiable reasons why the iPad doesn't support Flash. The platform has a tendency to crash, slams the CPU in Mac OS X, and opens the door to a variety of security breaches. Plus, it's one of the few components in Mac OS X of which Apple has no direct control. (See Google, IAC Begin Adobe Flash's Death March)

Even so, denying iPad users from access to Flash content is a huge limitation.

When Google (GOOG) and IAC (IACI) introduced HTML5 capability to YouTube and Vimeo, it wasn't to immediately replace Flash content on the sites. To do so would not only eliminate access to the majority of people who don't have HTML5 capable browsers, but also ruin the war against Flash. Given its ubiquity, Flash requires a gradual obsolescence to allow Web designers time to make the switch.

A total and immediate removal of support only results in irate consumers -- as in Apple's case.
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