Cage Match: Facebook, Flash, and the iPad!

In the run up to the Christmas holiday, I got the distinct impression that my spouse wanted to get me an Apple iPad as a gift. It’s no secret that I’d love to have one and now that I’m actively developing iPhone applications, it might even become a business necessity. But the lack of Adobe Flash support on the iPad continues to dampen my enthusiasm for the device.

I don’t really have any immediate need for an iPad, but I began to think that my wife might actually make better use of one than I. The way she works with her MacBook around the house makes her more of a candidate for an iPad than an ebook reader like a Nook or Kindle. She’d been asking me which ereader she should get. I lean towards the Nook since I already have one and like the hackability that its Android OS basis provides. But my wife likes being able to do a lot of things at once. She’s a big multitasker and I’m sure I see her lugging about her laptop and the ereader before too long.

So I began to make plans for an iPad for her. An iPad would allow her to do many of the things she does with her MacBook, casually at least. Some light word processing, web browsing, and of course reading ebooks using the Kindle or Nook reader apps. But my plans came to a screeching halt once I remembered that Facebook and Facebook games are a big part of her computing use around the house too. So I started to dig.

It turns out that the iPad Facebook Experience is not too great. Follow the link for more details, but in a nutshell she won’t be able to play Wordscraper on an iPad. That’s  a total deal breaker here. And if even a fraction of the 600 million account holders on Facebook play the Flash based games on the site regularly, that’s a lot of lost iPad sales. At this point I think Apple is leaving a giant hole open for Android based tablets that do support Flash to waltz right in and take a big chunk of a market Apple deserves a lot of credit for creating.

I think that 2011 is going to be the year that Apple finally allows Flash support in iOS. Android is catching up and in the tablet market in no small part due to the popularity of Facebook games, I can see the Flash issue being a big market stick to beat Apple with. We’re already starting to see this in ads for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and some of the Android smartphones that support Flash. Whatever the technical merits of Apple’s arguments against Flash, I can’t believe they are willing to leave money on the table.

2 replies on “Cage Match: Facebook, Flash, and the iPad!”

Apple can not keep up with current demand. Until they have sales drop off to the point that their product is less viable than the Mac was during the time in which people were afraid Apple would die, Apple won’t have to do anything. They have often “left money on the table” in the past, and most likely will continue to do so.

Besides, until they can increase production capacity, making the product even more attractive won’t help boost sales at all, since sales are constrained by production capacity.

With the iPad 2 on the way, this discussion will undoubtedly flare up again then. When there is a single Android tablet model that outsells the iPad, that is maybe when Apple might start to worry – maybe. When Apple’s tablets are in fifth place behind other tablet models (models, not manufacturers or operating systems) then Apple will be right back to where it was with the Mac in the past. Apple seemed happy there, and that didn’t cause it to do those things everyone said they should then (they experimented with licensing the OS and they did eventually switch the processor but it still isn’t commodity hardware and legally can not be although there are hacintoshes).

Don’t underestimate how stubborn they can be. They have been that stubborn in the past, and I expect they will be in the future.

Apple’s, or should we say Steve Jobs, is infamously stubborn. And I have little doubt that they will leave some money on the table. But I think the competition this round, having learned some lessons from battling the iPhone is going to be a lot tougher to ignore for long.

In particular, I still think the sheer number of Facebook users and the likelihood that they consist of average users who just want things to work will force Apple’s hand a bit on the Flash issue. Users like these are going to expect their Facebook games to work on the iPad. If they don’t it’s just going to create bad press for Apple and an opening for competition.

A Facebook branded Android OS tablet might not be a bad idea pretty soon.

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