Disclaimer: I am an Adobe employee and these views are my own.
Yesterday we saw the launch of the iPad from Apple, and we were taken on the whirlwind of marketing showmanship. The iPad is undoubtedly a revolutionary product, and just like the iPhone OS, Apple are clearly set on a path to close down the web and ultimately markets for books and magazines, just as they did with music. Well maybe this is a good thing for sales and the Apple stock price, but the Internet is meant to be more for those who use it. Fundamentally it’s an information, education and entertainment tool founded on open innovation. How can a liberal company try and lock it down??
Why would a student seriously want to go to the library? That’s so 1980!
The keynote by Steve Jobs yesterday was, as always, a masterpiece of marketing and you will have undoubtedly seen the “plug-in missing” boxes throughout the browsing demo. Apple told us that “a new device must be better at some things”, defining the iPad as “the best browsing experience of any device”; he even included laptops in that definition.
Is that an ignorant statement? Obviously not, Steve is a very smart guy so I think he’s in the business of redefining what the web is. Maybe he’ll brand it the iNet.
The interesting part of this keynote was in their pitch, you see Apple is staffed with smart people, so everything about the pitch was deliberate. When browsing the web at the New York Times, Time and National Geographic websites Steve paused momentarily to show that Flash was missing. He’s a perfectionist, so why do you think he would do that?
Well I believe that Apple were declaring that the web does not need or want Flash, that includes me with my Macbook Pro, 2 iPhones and an iPod Touch. For consumers it is extremely misleading to talk about a web without Flash, in fact any plugin or common technology. How do I know that? Well millions of iPhone users are visiting our Flash Player download page in the vein hope that they’ll be able to watch Hulu, iPlayer, 4OD and any number of sites. They don’t necessarily know what Flash is, but ~700million of them know that they could visit these pages and engage with the content on their desktop computer.
Is it fundamentally wrong to describe the modern web as “complete”, without the plugins that have existed for almost as long as it has? Plugins that many see as the leaders of, and a required element of, web innovation?
At Adobe we believe in an open web, one where plugins like Flash and PDF Reader, Unity3D, Gears and even Silverlight can all co-exist and compete on fair terms. We work extremely hard to bring Flash to all devices, and lately of course we have invested a huge effort in bringing the Flash Platform to mobile devices too. Today we’re working with 19 of the top 20 manufacturers of mobile phones within the Open Screen Project; but not Apple, and certainly not for the want of trying.
To make matters worse, the problems didn’t end with Flash being absent on the iPad. Apple also launched the iBookStore, a separate and new store for Books and I presume magazines or articles in time. In essence this is a great step forward for many, and Apple has elected to the use the EPub format which is fully supported in InDesign CS4.
So what gives? It’s all in the detail, the DRM, user locked, device locked detail. Forget sharing your books and movies, forget reading your books on your laptop sometimes or transferring them onto any other device.
In sum, I am hugely disappointed in Apple’s iPad and I feel that the vast majority of consumers will reject it; as long as Apple come clean about its shortcomings first.