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

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I'm betting Apple will win this one. Not so much because the iPad will become the driving factor in Web access, but because media sites are so desperate to find new ways to make money after discovering (surprise!) that giving away their products over the Web is killing them. They see the iPad and similar devices as a way to change the expectations that content must be free, especially now that they know that advertising won't pay for it either. Thus, they'll support the iPad's creator and driver: Apple.

Media sites' influence over Web developers, videographers, and the like will thus push HTML5 into the sites that most people visit, and that will create the expectation that the HTML5/CSS3 approach is better than using proprietary formats such as Flash. Never mind that there are still codec issues to work out with HTML5 video.

Anything "proprietary" means there's a dollar cost, while the "open standards" line Apple is usually means there's less cost -- and that will also push the eventual abandonment of Flash video.

Rich Internet apps are next to fall
Flash, Silverlight, and WebFX will continue to have a place for delivering interactive capabilities, but you can bet that Apple won't support them either. It wants developers to use the Web for lighter-weight content and capabilities and its iPhone OS for heavier-weight content and capabilities. It's in Apple's interest that you develop your functionality in Xcode for the iPhone and iPad rather than in Flash, Silverlight, or JavaFX. Not supporting these RIAs (as well as not supporting Adobe AIR) is a great way to tilt the playing field away from them -- which is precisely Apple's strategy.

It may be a bit harder for Apple to win this battle, but I think it will. Why harder? For one, Microsoft is basing its forthcoming Window Phone 7 platform with Silverlight as its main apps platform. It's tied Silverlight to .Net, to tap into the large base of .Net developers to get instant momentum. If Windows Phone 7 takes off, Silverlight might get some real traction. It's had a poor record on the desktop Web.

Here's why I don't think that will play out: .Net is used lagely for enterprise app develoment, not for Web development, and certainly not for content development. Adobe's been the major force in content-oriented development technology, and as Apple weakens Adobe's role on the mobile side, content-oriented developers are no more likely to turn to .Net and Silverlight than they are to Java and JavaFX. They'll turn to HTML5 and/or to Xcode, as well as the equivalent of Xcode for the Google Android platform.

Did I mention Google is promoting HTML5 as well? With the two mobile leaders pushing HTML5, and Apple slowly by steadily taking over the entertainment and content distribution industries -- Jobs has learned something from his affiliation with Disney.

None of this will happen overnight, but Apple has clearly declared war on Flash video and by proxy on today's RIAs.

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