The iPad proves it: Apple is out to kill Flash

Apple's campaign for iPad-ready sites is just the start of an effort to kill off RIAs such as Flash and Silverlight

For the iPhone's three generations, a common complaint among tech pundits at least is the lack of support for Adobe Flash video, the most widely used video playback technology on the Web. Apple CEO Steve Jobs intimated that the issue was Flash's poor performance -- badly written ActionScript code can, in fact, suck up resources faster than a tornado -- while many pundits (including me) suspected the reason had to be about maintaining control over video to favor Apple's paid iTunes offerings.

I'm less sure about the iTunes conspiracy theory, given Apple's recent approval of a Slingbox iPhone app and a Netflix iPad app, but I am sure about this: With the recent launch of the iPad, it's clear that Apple's goal is to do more than ignore Flash. Apple wants to kill Flash and the other RIAs. Its weapon of choice: the still-evolving HTML5 browser standard. (My colleague Neil McAllister recently wrote a great article explaining what you should know about HTML5 and its technologies such as the video tag.)

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Apple's backhanded attack on Flash video
Apple has begun promoting Websites that use some of the more baked parts of HTML5's draft standard, including the video tag for video playback. Apple Website's iPad marketing is explicit about that: "iPad features Safari, a mobile Web browser that supports the latest Web standards -- including HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. Here are just a few of the sites that take advantage of these Web standards to deliver content that looks and functions beautifully on iPad." It then lists a bunch of popular sites such as CNN, Reuters, and the New York Times, pointedly noting their use of the HTML5 video tag. Some examples:

  • "When you’re browsing on iPad, the site automatically displays an HTML5 video player, providing you with the best possible viewing experience."
  • "An HTML5 video player on lets you view most of the site's video content on iPad."
  • "The HTML5 video player on the home page displays video in a format viewable on iPad."
  • "The 24/7 news site [for Time magazine] features an HTML5 video player for viewing recently published video."
  • " is a largely standards-based site that displays video using the HTML5 video tag."
  • "Recent video features on [Sports Illustrated's Web site] are displayed via an HTML5 player compatible with iPad."

The message is clear: Yes you can dump Flash video for the HTML5 video tag. And you should. Jobs has decided you should, and Adobe Flash video is in his crosshairs.

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