Apple iPad, day 5: Does the iPad need Adobe Flash?

Today I examine whether the lack of Flash makes the iPad incapable of filling the role of primary computing device.

As part of the 30 Days With the iPad experiment, I thought it only fair to examine just how crucial Adobe Flash is, and whether it makes any notable difference in the ability of the iPad to function as a replacement for my notebook.

"Yeah--but, it doesn't have Flash!" It is the mantra of anti-iPad sentiment; a rallying cry for those opposed to the iOS mobile platform; a poster child for what is wrong with Apple mobile devices. But, aside from being an easy sound bite to throw around on Twitter or in forum comments, does it really matter?

To answer the question, it seems reasonable to start by considering what I need to use my PC for. I use email and social networking a lot. I rely on a word processor for typing articles like this one. I need it to have a Web browser. I like to play music while I work. The iPad seems to function just fine without Flash for those tasks.

Obviously, the debatable aspect of that list is the Web browsing. Your mileage will vary greatly depending on how you use the Web, and the specific sites you visit. Adobe Flash has been a staple of Web development for some time--almost to the point of being a standard of sorts. I won't debate that Flash is pervasive on the Web. I will debate just how much that matters, though.

I realize that there are passionate views on this topic, and I am sure to start some sort of zealous firestorm with this statement, but I just don't miss Flash on iOS. I have never missed Flash on iOS. I have been using the iPad since the day it launched, and I can count on one hand the number of times the lack of Flash has impacted me, and that impact was minimal because I either discovered that the resource had an iOS app that solved the problem, or I just moved on and found an equivalent resource to do the same thing.

I put the question out on Twitter to 16,000-plus followers and got only a few responses. One person pointed out that without Flash you can't view the video content on the CNBC or CNN websites. That is true, and if there is breaking news, or you just want to use the iPad to keep up with the news, that could be a blackmark on the iPad as PC replacement.

However, both CNN and CNBC have iOS apps. The CNN app for the iPad is awesome. I use it frequently, and I have it set up to push breaking news alerts so I get notifications to keep me informed even when I am not actively using it.

I don't generally frequent CNBC, but I visited the site just to check out the Flash issue. I confirmed that video clips don't work in Safari because of the lack of Flash, then I went to the App Store and found the CNBC app. I tried to play a story called "Pro-Growth Tax Reform?" in Safari on the CNBC site--no go. I just get an error message telling me to "Please Install Flash Player". But, that same story plays just fine in the CNBC app.

Some will say that I am missing out on the vast world of Flash-based games online. That might impact my children, but I have no interest in playing Flash-based games online. I don't play them on my PC that does have Flash, so I am not going to miss them on the iPad. Besides, there are tens of thousands of games available for iOS, so gaming is not going to be a concern.

One Twitter response pointed out that the Domino's Pizza site is Flash-based and doesn't work on the iPad. Domino's has an iPhone app, but no app specifically for the iPad. Granted, I have to choose between running the app in an iPhone-sized space in the middle of the display, or expanding it to a pixelated view that fits the iPad, but the app used location data from the iPad to identify my nearby locations, and I found it to be a pretty slick way to navigate the menu and order a pizza.

The only response I received that I don't have an answer for is regarding the Cisco Networking Academy online curriculum. The exact quote was, "One million students can't use iOS to study IOS." Clever.

I can't log in to the site to verify, but I'll take his word for it. If you are someone who plans to use the Cisco Networking Academy training, don't ditch your PC just yet. Despite the tepid response to my Twitter request for input, I am sure there are other sites out there like that as well.

I guess I would sum up the situation like this: For most people in most situations, the lack of Flash will simply not matter. For some people in some instances, the lack of Flash will have an impact, and in most--or at least many--of those instances there will be an app that solves the problem, and arguably delivers the content better than the Flash-based website. For a select minority of users in specific scenarios, Flash is simply a requirement, and the iPad will not be able to fill the need.

From what I have read and heard about how flaky and unstable Flash is on Android, it doesn't seem to me like I am missing anything. I can say that--for me--the lack of Flash is simply a non-issue.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux

Day 4: Hiccups and Pet Peeves

This story, "Apple iPad, day 5: Does the iPad need Adobe Flash?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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