signs that Adobe Flash is on the way out

i’ll spare the discussion of how Flash is dead because Steve Jobs says it is.

while i agree with him on all of his points, i’m not really into the all bow to the great and mighty Steve camp, even while the rest of the industry bows to the great and mighty Steve.  (i may think it’s just a tad bit snotty for Steve to simply not support a development platform that’s become so ubiquitous as to be an industry standard, but i can’t deny that it’s his prerogative as a hardware and software manufacturer to support — or not — any platform he wants.  adobe wants to sue apple?  please.  on what possible grounds?  hardware doesn’t support software all the time, even to the point that intel-based Macs don’t run some of the software that non-intel-based Macs can run, and vice versa. what makes this issue any different than apple not supporting windows software?  i would like to wish adobe luck; if they win, it could set a precedent that would lead to the end of OS-specific software, which, in a way, is sort of what adobe is trying to do anyway with Flash and Air.)

i also don’t think the iPad is the be-all end-all technology product.  but there are some interesting trends.  and i do think it will change the way we think of computing and, in particular, how we look at the web.  (i don’t think this because i see apple as being able to single-handedly define our web browsing experience.  remember that little thing that Google announced six months or so ago, the ChromeOS?  and how the OS would only work on specially-designed hardware, about how the operating system, essentially, was the internet, about how the internet would be changing and blah blah blah, remember all that?  and all the people at the official announcement were busily typing into their netbooks thinking that this would be a netbook operating system but how could anyone want to run this netbook operating system when there wasn’t any actual software and had such limited features…kind of sounds like the iPad now, doesn’t it?  one major technology company with their fingers deep into the pot of user experience of the web with the most popular mobile browsing device — the iPhone — does not necessarily define the direction of the industry and the web (although it could).  two major technology companies with their fingers deep into the pot of user experience of the web — one of which is essentially the name brand of search — just might.)

this, however, is the interesting juxtaposition of information that i think is particularly telling about the demise of Flash as a standardized development platform:

the iPad is used, predominantly, by well-to-do men in the 35-44 age bracket.  it’s not the young geeks (like me) probably because we don’t have the cash to throw around to buy one (and are probably spending more time texting and listening to tunes at any rate, things that make the iPhone a better fit, although half of them also have an iPhone).  [source: Mashable — iPad: The Device of the Rich?]

the top 10 luxury brands (as reported by Forbes in 2009) fail to work on iDevices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) because they use Flash.  some of them — most notably Gucci — have some functionality, but 6 out of 10 die when faced with a Flash-less browser, and of the broken 4, only Gucci has any real functionality.  [source: PSFK — Top 10 Luxury Brands’ Sites Fail To Work On iPad]

it doesn’t take a genius to do the math.  rich, older guys (older than me at any rate) — guys who probably largely resemble jon stewart, pictured above — are the ones buying iPads, but the top 10 luxury brands (read: stuff that rich guys — and gals — like to buy) can’t be viewed on iPads because they use Flash.  the makers of luxury products want the rich guys and gals with disposable incomes (the ones that buy iPads) to buy their stuff, so they are going to have to redesign their sites to use HTML5 or at least provide a non-Flash alternative.  more will follow.  eventually, whether Adobe likes it or not, whether HTML5 skeptics and detractors like it or not, whether HTML5 is really ready or not, HTML5 will become the de facto standard because people want their sites to be viewable on more platforms.

that’s why adobe is pissed off, and they have a point.  but so does Jobs.  HTML5 is an open platform.  Flash is not; Flash is owned by Adobe and, as such, developers need to wait for Adobe to add new features to be able to expand and innovate their software.  That is not the case with an open platform.  in the end, i think Jobs’ points trump Adobe’s.  even if Google makes a tablet, and HP makes a tablet, and Amazon upgrades the Kindle to be more tablet-like, and they all support Flash, the very fact that Jobs has put his foot down in a “not gonna do it” sort of way means that brands and developers will need to decide whether to build a site that can be viewed on a mobile Apple product or…not.  i think the one million iPads sold in the first month and the most popular mobile phone crowns can suggest what direction that will go.