Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Apple helped kill off Flash a little too soon

The biggest complaint about the iPad is that it does not run Adobe's Flash, which is used to display videos and animation on the Internet.  Steve Jobs called Flash an old technology in 2010 and said the iPad would never support Flash.  Unfortunately, millions of web pages still use Flash, so if you are a teacher who wants to watch some really great educational videos with your students then you're in for a bad experience.  There are some apps (like Rover) for the iPad that try to run Flash, but they are unreliable and buggy.

So if Flash is part of the past, then what is the future of videos on the Internet?  It is called HTML5, and there is no doubt that it will be the format developers use moving forward.  Apple, Microsoft, Google, and just about everybody else is supporting this standard.

But when will HTML5 actually arrive?  It is available right now, but it has not been fully embraced yet.  The first television broadcasting station started in 1928, but televisions weren't really popular until the 1950s.  Blu-ray officially arrived in 2006, but DVDs still outsell Blu-ray six years later.  The claim that Flash is "dead" isn't entirely accurate considering Flash use still far exceeds HTML5 use.  Flash is a goner, I agree, but not yet.

Until HTML5 becomes part of the mainstream, should we worry that the iPad will not be the amazing product it could be until it that day?  Gartner reported that HTML5 will not be officially adopted as a standard until 2014, and that it could take between 5 and 10 years from now until it is fully embraced (like the television and Blu-ray examples above).  I don't believe it will take ten years or even five.  I do believe it will take three years, though, which means the freshman walking into school today will not truly take advantage of their iPads until they are seniors.  That worries me.

Until those old videos run on the iPad then we will continue to be frustrated.  I know no one at Apple will change their mind about using Flash, and I also know that HTML5 is on the way.  The future is coming... eventually. I am really hoping that until we see full adoption of HTML5 that better apps arrive to run Flash videos on an iPad, and I hope that developers are willing to work backwards to convert their web pages to HTML5 as quickly as possible.

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