Why no Flash on the iPad? Theories abound!

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We know that Apple's iPad won't support Flash, at least not at launch. This has been a cause for concern for many potential customers, but Steve Jobs seems pretty determined not to change his plans. Jobs told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn't interested in supporting Flash because it was insecure, a battery hog and old technology (according to Valley Wag).

Now maybe that's the whole truth, but no one seems to really believe that. A lot of people seem to think that Apple just doesn't like seeing Adobe in sole control of such a ubiquitous content delivery system for the web.

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Yesterday Gizmodo ran a story offering another theory. In the post Flash developer Morgan Adams explained that Flash just wouldn't work on the iPad (or the iPhone) because there's no cursor and no concept of a cursor, and with no cursor there's no hovering, and with no hovering Flash doesn't work right. Huh? Gizmodo subsequently backed away from the story. In retrospect Adams seemed to be talking mostly about banner ads. You know those awful ads that take over your screen when you pass your mouse cursor over them? Well yeah, those wouldn't work since there's no way to hover without clicking. What a loss to us all, right? On the other hand that hover technique might be used in more practical applications, though none immediately spring to mind.

Another line of speculation cropping up is that the graphics subsystem of the A4 chip inside the iPad is underpowered and so isn't able to accelerate Flash. This according to a post at The Bright Side of News which said in part:

According to our sources, the graphics subsystem of Apple's A4 not just has issues in fully supporting OpenES 2.0 but is a underpowered GPU for the screen resolution at hand. iPad's resolution is too high and as a consequence, A4's GPU cannot accelerate Adobe Flash.

This is info coming from a single source, so take it with a grain of salt.

While all this is going down, over in the Android world there's a video going around of Farmville (the oh-so-popular Facebook game, built in Flash) running on a Nexus One (jump to around the 2:30 mark). The Nexus One in question is running a ROM from the upcoming HTC Desire, so there's a bit of hackery involved, but when the Desire launches in April it is supposed to have Flash 10.1 included. Watching the video, the experience doesn't look all that pleasant to me and I'm not convinced I want Flash running on my phone, but that's mostly due to screen size. The iPad's 1024x768 screen resolution would be a lot more conducive to running Flash apps than the Nexus One's 800x480 resolution is, assuming the device has the horsepower to keep the Flash apps responsive.

So how is this all going to shake out? If the iPad really takes off then Apple could conceivably use its leverage to influence content developers to move away from Flash and onto other technologies like HTML 5. But until that happens (if it ever does) the lack of Flash support has the potential to be a real chink in the iPad's armor, particularly when there are Android and Windows tablets on the way that do support Flash. It'll be interesting to see if Apple flinches or if it will stand its ground. It'll also be interesting to see how big a deal the lack of Flash really is once the device ships. The iPhone and iPod Touch do well enough without it.

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