By Joseph Labrecque


April 19, 2010

Apple vs. Everyone

“It’s a dumbed-down, sealed-shut device designed to make its owners into passive consumers.”
Cory Doctorow

So I was recently asked something to the effect of
I am trying to decide if I need an iPad and have been reading mixed reviews with regards to the ability to use them at various Universities. I’m personally pretty Mac-resistant, but I don’t have a terribly good reason for it. Other than that they’re expensive and want to kill Flash and have some of the most irritating marketing EVER!
I believe that I gave a fair and reasoned response to the question and present it here for anyone else that may be in need of an opinion around this subject.

So while on the surface, a lot of people are thinking that students will be able to have all their textbooks on the device, you need buy-in from all the assorted publishers and I do not see that happening.
The largest downer though, as you implied, is that there is no support for Flash or even AIR… rendering educational tools like VoiceThread (and our own CourseMedia system) useless on the device. A lot of educational tools are built in whole or in part upon the Flash Platform and Apple is blocking them as well as anything authored in Java, Lua, Mono, Unity, et cetera…
On the other hand, we see a slew of Windows 7 and Android tablets being readied for launch with the additional promise of Chrome OS tablets. Microsoft is being a lot more open lately, and Google/Android is a no brainer in that regard. In fact, Google recently announced that Flash will be integrated into their Chrome browser and (one would assume) all Chromium projects, while Google, Mozilla, and Adobe are working together on a new plugin architecture that will elevate content such as Flash to the level of HTML and JavaScript in the browser.
On one hand we see a bunch of great tech minds working together to open up platforms and make the computing experience better for everyone (and this will translate onto the upcoming tablets based on Android, Chrome, and the like) – on the other hand we have closed off, expensive, limiting Apple products.
Part of the university experience should be about exploring and studying the world around us- being open to different technologies in such an environment should be no different.

I’m sure there are plenty that would disagree with several of my points in this opinion piece. I’m open to that.


  • By KB - 9:48 AM on April 20, 2010  

    I would agree, but only as it applies to the iPad and iPhone, not to all Apple products (specifically the Mac, on which I can run Linux programs and even some Windows programs using MacPorts, and which allows for open source development).
    I don’t consider the iPad a computer or a netbook replacement; it’s basically a consumer/consumption device (I believe the TWiN network nailed it when they said it’s essentially “television 2.0”). I think it’s fine for average consumers who have no desire to tinker with their products and tend to consume rather than create content; everyone else has and will have other options available. I don’t think anyone who’s serious about computing and doesn’t already have a laptop or netbook is going to buy an iPad looking for a comparable feature set. I personally would love a color e-reader, but an iPad is too expensive to me at this point, and none of the alternatives have been well-reviewed.
    That being said, while it would be wonderful to see Apple and Adobe somehow settle their differences, I’d want to see better Flash support/stability/performance in Mac OS X before seeing it on one of the consumer i-devices. I hate to say it, but Silverlight (of all things) gives me less trouble and marginally better performance. That’s not the way it should be; on Windows it’s the opposite.
    [I’ve been thinking too that the iPad is more of a consumer electronics device than anything else. As far as Flash performance on Apple machines, that has a lot to do with Apple closing off their APIs to technologies like Flash Player. Version 10.1 should definitely help in that department though, even not having access to GPU and such. – Joseph]

  • By Andrew Morton - 10:08 AM on April 20, 2010  

    Well, I won’t dig into the fact that you’re an Adobe employee so it is difficult to think you’re completely unbiased of Flash not being on iDevices, but I’d like to ask a different thing instead.
    [I’m actually not employed by Adobe. -Joseph]
    iPhone has been shipping since 2007, iPad since earlier this month, yet the Flash player meant to run on these level of devices is still in beta and not released for any device: what exactly Adobe was expecting from Apple considering they had/have nothing to ship as of today?
    [I cannot speak for Adobe, but cooperation from Apple and a willingness to dialogue would be most welcomed. Those devices that FP10.1 is coming out for- companies have worked with Adobe to make it happen. It is a partnership, and both sides need to play together to achieve any result worth the consumer’s time. -Joseph]
    Please read about the JooJoo and Slate tablets that are supposed to be more open (like you say), the reviews all concludes they are kind of “meh”, which is not a good sign.
    [Some of these devices look mediocre but others are very promising. -Joseph]
    Closed to Flash doesn’t mean closed to everything.
    [Actually, it pretty much does in terms of Apple’s new developer agreement, Section 3.3.1 et cetera. -Joseph]

  • By Andrew Morton - 1:12 PM on April 20, 2010  

    Joseph, sorry for the inclusion in the Adobe band, but your post appears in an Adobe host, so I just made 1 + 1
    Regarding company collaboration, maybe true, but again, even with all the given help from interested parties, nobody is shipping Flash Player 10.1 yet, unless somebody was expecting Apple to withhold the release of their hardware to accommodate others’ needs.
    [No one expected Apple to delay anything- the Droid and Nexus One were not expected to be delayed either, but they are getting full FP10.1 and AIR for Android, all the same because of dialogue and cooperation. I just wish Apple would be more open to to this sort of partnership instead of remaining exclusionary. -Joseph]
    Even these two tablets were presented as “promising”, Flash Player 10.1 for mobile is “promising” as well. There are a lot of promises going around, sooner or later the market will expect them to be fulfilled.
    [Adobe wants to get this right. With the arguments of being lazy and buggy thrown at Flash Player, they want to deliver upon those promises (And they will. Soon.) -Joseph]
    Section 3.3.1 closes to people that wants to take shortcuts and the 185,000 applications on the AppStore show that nobody playing by the rules is really being excluded. There is a lot of FUD going around for no real reason, Adobe folks complain about Apple not accepting applications with “Pad” in their name, but actually Adobe rejected from their on-line store each and every application with “AIR” in its name and challenged with take down notice any blog with “Flash” in their name (except those belong to those “working for adobe by opinions are mine” of course).
    [I’d refer you to this list of iStore apps built using “intermediate layers” These guys are potentially going to be excluded from the iStore because they choose to code in Unity or Lua. -Joseph]

  • By Amy Blankenship - 1:57 PM on April 20, 2010  

    I think it’s important to note the context of Joseph’s post, which is strictly “how will this device hold up to the real-world expectations of the education market, especially college students?”
    The simple truth is that there is a ton of eLearning content out there that is Flash-based, such as content built in Captivate (mainly used for software simulations, but also does a good job with simple scenarios and other types of content) and Articulate, which is a good general-purpose eLearning content production tool. These tools produce content that is easy to plug into Learning Management Systems, which are widely used in university and corporate settings to present and track user learning.
    It’s unrealistic to think that higher ed faculty are going to be learning Objective C in order to make their materials available on their students’ iPads, leaving aside the issue of how you’d plug such content into an LMS.
    Potentially you could deliver Coursebuilder content or something like that on iPad, but I don’t know anyone who’s actually in love with HTML only eLearning tools.
    So where that leaves us is that the iPad will not be able to access the existing learning content, and it’s unlikely that new content will accomodate itself to the iPad in the foreseeable future.
    I don’t think that means the iPad won’t be useful to some students, if they’re well-heeled enough that they can afford a full-blown laptop or netbook and an IPad, but there’s no way it will work as a student’s sole device in most academic situations.

  • By Rob Schwartz - 7:54 AM on May 12, 2010  

    I love my macbook pro and my Imac, but I’ll not be investing in an ipad, and will probably move off of my iphone when contract is up in October for these issues… And for me, it’s a moral choice- Apple is just not being nice.
    This is not about consumers getting quality products- it’s about forcing developers that want to design for the ipad/itouch/iphone to buy a mac to run the dev software. Flash worked and ported out to the devices, and many other phone developers have figured out how to get flash to work on their devices, so it’s not an interface/touch issue, either. It’s simply arrogance on apple’s part.
    I gravitated to the Mac because I could have one machine running both platforms- it was the ubiquity of the machines that captivated me. To move from ubiquity to exclusivity is enough to just make me want to focus my loyalties on other products/companies that are working WITH the other players in the tech fields- not against.

  • By IT Support - 3:52 AM on May 27, 2010  

    Hi, Thanks for the brilliant post, I dont usually leave remarks but your blog inspired me!! I just had a look at one of those Ipads and they look good, although the screen is huge I like it. I can see a lots of them needing support when the screen breaks 🙂 Keep up the good work and look forward to more articles

  • By Online Flash Games - 10:01 PM on June 19, 2010  

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