Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Giant iPhone

The iPad - Apples new giant iPhone - doesn't display Spammy flash websites, and that is a problem, how?

The sheer unadulterated drivel being spruiked about the iPad is unbelievable.

Can I just say - you idiots out there ranting and raving that the iPhone doesn't have flash - here's a word for you guys - STFU.

You other guys calling it a computer - get off my lawn, leave this to the adults.

And others saying Jobs/Apple is saying its a netbook killer - where exactly? Who is saying that because its not in your article anywhere!

The iPad is a mobile device. Its a giant iPhone. It is all about what it does not have.

You hold it in one hand, and read e-books, the web, and your email. Its not a computer. Never was intended to be a computer.

Its just some new gadget that Apple made, and like their other stuff its designed to be simple, easy to use, and to limit its scope so that it performs very well to its price point. End of story. Its not a cancer cure, or a faster-than-light ship.

It comes with cut down versions of Apples office apps, keynote and so on so you can render a powerpoint or an excel file, but you'd be completely insane to try to edit one on the device.

The iPhone doesn't have flash. Ergo, the iPad doesn't have flash.

It was never going to have flash. If you like some other gadget, go and freaking well buy that instead!

Oh wait - that's right no other mobile device actually does flash!

The HP Slate you say? It's not here is it, and when it comes - with its 5 hour battery life, half that of the iPad, it will be dead on arrival. Play flash on that guy and you'll be lucky to get 2 hours out of it. If HP sell one Slate for every 10 iPads I'll be amazed.

Niche devices like Nokias lovely N900 (disclaimer - I work for Nokia) they have loads of power, and can render flash sites in the installed browser. But most of those, like the N900 are not available in all places, and are expensive. The N900 is a phone for geeks, and I'm talking more than being a power user: you need to be a linux geek to use this awesome thing to its full potential.

Android phones fall into the same category as well - many can theoretically render flash, but like the N900 doing so makes battery life pathetically short, and the phones become unresponsive and brittle as glass. Plus these devices have a long long way to go before they're a contender against the iPhone for market share.

So what is it about Flash?

Flash is a nightmare to implement on mobile devices - that is the core business reason why Apple didn't put it on their mobile devices, pure and simple. In webkit every flash item on a page becomes its own top level window, and consumes massive resources. Dropping Flash, and some other "too hard basket" items is why Apple engineers were able to deliver an iPhone that kicked the ass of every other phone vendor.

I work for Nokia, who make great products. They have an incredible coverage of the features required by demanding buyers, for example road-warriors with their voice-dialling and other advanced stuff.

The iPhone came out and had none of this stuff, and yet it went totally viral. Everyone wanted one. Why? Because it was simple and easy to use. The people that needed those advanced features - the tiny fraction of them, went and got those phones - Blackberrys, our high-end Nokias. The rest - basically everyone, since those power-users were a tiny percentage, got iPhones because the smooth easy to use UI made them feel empowered, instead of intimidated like the UI's on the high end business phones.

All those other vendors are scrambling to play catch up right now, and the reason is that stuff that was too hard, that made the device difficult to use, performed badly or was just plain too costly in terms of both development and bill-of-materials to put on the device - guess what - Apple didn't put it on there.

And what's more do people really actually want or need flash? Yes, I hear a lot of journo's and whinging slashdot types harping on about it, but who wants it on a device? I would love to hear what it is that you actually want to use it for.

If I had an iPad and it did have flash, then I would have to go and install a flash blocker. If I ever do buy one, guess what - I don't have to bother. But if it did, I would be wanting more than a blocker - I would be wanting someway to remove all support for flash from the device because its insecure, changes formats & versions every season, and most of all because it sucks the life out of the device.

You can't watch video's on iPhone because "75% of videos are flash"...? Well right on the home screen of the iPhone there's a YouTube icon and I have played a ton of videos using that - guess what it works just fine. People are working around flash, because of all its problems and that 75% or whatever it really is will be trending to zero very fast.

And another thing. The so called "hype" about the iPad.

You guys complaining about flash, you are the same whining tech journo's who were second guessing every last detail of the iPad even before it had a name, and cranking out articles speculating about what its feature list might be; then a week or two later complaining about the "hype of the ipad".

Do you know who hyped the iPad? It was you guys! Apple didn't do anything more than it had ever done - wheel out Steve Jobs and make a couple of press releases and videos. There were no superbowl adverts, no blimps or marching bands, Apple did nothing that qualified as hype in my book.

Hyping the iPad - it was done by the tech press - Apple didn't have to lift a finger!

By the way - I hope you like my bargain basement graphic of the iPad. Its scrawled on a napkin in my hotel room as I travel for work. Home grown right here.

Unlike the idiotic tech press who recycle Apple's own images just as they moan and whinge about Apple. They bitch and complain at the same time as they live and breathe for every next product that Apple makes.

The iPad - its just another crappy Apple device that doesn't do very much at all, but does it so well that everyone will buy it and meanwhile everyone else thinks they have to implement flash as a way to compete.

Here's my tip to you - forget flash if you want to stand any chance against the Apple line up of mobile devices.


  1. Flash Lite has been around for literally years, plays video, and is available on the most common mobile phone platform on the planet - Symbian. I own one of those devices and it has no noticeable effect on battery life. Well to put it another way - maybe it does effect battery life, but if so that effect is swamped by the power required to keep the phone connected to the internet so you can use the web at all.

    Apple's stand against flash has nothing to do with flash's technological weaknesses, and everything to do with its one strength - portability. It is impossible to build a paywalled Apple garden that requires users to hand over 30% of every cent they spend on content (music, apps, games and now with the iPad newspaper/magazines) when you have a platform like flash on your device that allows those slimy content providers to not only by-pass your paywall, but in fact the entire Apple eco-system.

    If the iPad is successful, it will be the first such success since Apple brought the mouse to the masses. Music players and smart phones were all main stream before Apple entered those markets. No so tablets - many have tried the tablet thing, it has never become mainstream. And that was before they had smartphone competition. If Apple manages to pull this off, it will because they also have invented a use for the things - reading magazines and newspapers. Right now that looks to be floundering because Jobs is insisting it all goes through his paywall and he gets to own the customers, and their credit card and contact details. Naturally the newpapers and magazine providers hate this. They also hate the 30% Apple tax. But all that can be changed with a flick of a pen on a contract, so who knows maybe he will pull it off yet.

    But personally, if I were them, given the choice of being owned by Apple or using flash, I would be embracing flash.

  2. Hi Russel,

    Thanks for the great commentsx.

    This Apple "paywall" thing. I don't get it. What exactly are you complaining about? What is a tax? Apple has a business selling music and other stuff through their iTunes store. If its too expensive then don't buy it. Where is the problem?

    The DRM that Apple uses is far more about satisfying these content providers that their content will not be given away to third parties as it is about stopping their customers from doing anything. If Sony Music or Disney was running those stores do you think you'd get that content at some freer set of conditions? What Apple has done is use their clout, garnered from running one of the most successful online music and content sales businsses to force the content providers to lighten up.

    You can call it a paywall or whatever you like but every content provider producing commercial copyrighted content is requiring mechanisms to protect their content.

    So Apple makes 30% out of it. What is that compared to what a record store, or some place like Amazon makes? And like I say no-one is making you use their services. If the prices really are too expensive then then competitors will offer cheaper services.

    Its trivial to circumvent the DRM on Apples content - you can burn songs to a CD and then re-rip them in seconds - but the point is you have circumvented it. I don't see what wonderful freedoms flash buys you here. Its popular, and if its popular for serving content obtained outside of the "paywall" I don't see why that is anything special. I could just as easily obtain ripped stuff via torrent.

  3. Will the iPad be successful.

    I've had the argument regarding Apple hardware many times. I pay a premium to buy Mac kit, compared to the price of a box that would run Windows or Linux. What I get is a hardware environment controlled by Apple, components are known spec, and their proprietary operating software can thus be tuned to run on it, as the components are tuned to work together - bus bandwidths are matched for memory and IO, cooling, power consumption - all planned out in a way beige box commodity systems can never be. Apparently this is all evil because Apple are controlling their platform.

    If instead I get a beige box, it turns out to have a jMicron SATA controller that the version of Linux I have won't talk to and I have to frig about for hours to get it installed. I don't have time for that any more. I'm not a student. Give me the thing that just works, and keeps on working. The Mac gear I have is still good after 5 years - and I am not talking about savings on the hardware, I'm talking about the savings in my hassle to move to a new box because the old one dies. Linux boxes and Windows ones too all die after 2-3 years, and the Mac kit is still going after 4-5 years.

    I think the iPad will be successful as a piece of hardware because of this strategy of Apples.

    Will it be successful as a plank in their market strategy for content consumption? I have no doubt that it will - mostly because of the sucess of iTunes so far. The Amazon kindle has blazed the trail, now Apple will come along and do it better. Same as Apple did with the cell-phone, they stood on the shoulders of others and avoided the mistakes by limiting what they were trying to acheive.

    People buy stuff on the internet. That is a paywall? Huh? I don't get it.

  4. I am not complaining about Apple's paywall. I am merely saying putting things behind it is a major motivation of Apple's. In particular, it is the motivation behind Apple's current attack on flash. True they don't admit is their motivation, they quote all sorts of technical reasons which you are repeat here. They are all red hearings. In fact, they are just plain wrong. Flash works so well it used on a depressingly large percentage of web pages out there and it appears to be growing. I don't like it - in fact I block it. But to say it is a failure flys in the face of the evidence.

    As for whether the iPad will fly - it has nothing to do with the Apple hardware argument you put forward. No one disagrees they make good hardware. But regardless of how wonderfully it is engineered, there has to be a market for it. In fact it has to be so useful it is actually worth carrying another device around, or it has to displace an existing device.

    At the top end it is competing with netbooks, and the bottom end it is smart phones. It has no hope of displacing a smart phones. People who carry netbooks also carry smart phones, and it seems to me the odds of them carrying yet another devices is low.

    It might be possible to displace a netbook. As you observed, the only thing the iPad has over a smart phone is the large screen. That advantage has to apply to something people want to do on a daily basis. And it has to be something that doesn't really require typing, so the loss of the netbooks keyboard is a worthwhile tradeoff.

    The only thing I can see that comes close is exactly what Jobs is perusing - reading newspapers, magazines and books. So in order for the iPad to be here in 5 years time and not be consigned to the same dustbin as all other tablets before that has to fly. It has to become the "eReader" of choice.

    So far it hasn't. When it comes to eBooks, it isn't even clear it should be. Kindle is much cheaper, it is easy to read in ambient light, and has much longer batter life. Most of these advantages come from it using eInk. So why didn't Apple make an eInk device? My guess is because eInk doesn't do colour. Colour doesn't matter for novels, but for newspapers it is nice and for magazines it is a must. So it looks to me like Jobs has bet the iPad on it becoming a generalised eReader whose increased cost is justified by people regularly reading newspapers and magazines on it.

    So far no one does. Frankly, I it looks like a long shot to me. But it is early days and Jobs is a clever man, so maybe he can make it work.

    P.S: If your boxes Windows/Linux boxes are dying after 2-3 years and you don't want them to, try spending as much on the boxes as you do on the Apple equivalents. You get what you pay for. Hell, if you buy them from someone like Dell, they will even give you a 5 year on site warranty.


Hi, thanks for leaving your thoughtful on-topic comment!