It turns out the iPad just might have Flash after all in one form or another. The device was assuredly borking numerous Flash elements during its demo, but the iPad did render New York Times Flash content correctly.
Where does this leave us? Well, the conspiracy theorists will argue that given the NYT’s close relationship with Apple (they have been working together), perhaps some Flash will work, and some not. Why have an YouTube application if it will run in the browser? Not an unfair point.
Apple needs to come out and make it plain whether the iPad can handle Flash; and if not, will it ever. We should need to be speculating about this. Apple, act like a normal company and define your product.
Even more, we are all forgetting another very important Flash competitor: Silverlight. Silverlight is quickly becoming a mass market plugin, with now more than a 50% install base and a growing crop of premium content based on it. What is the chance that Apple will let the iPad handle Silverlight? Probably quite low, at least in the short term. Silverlight took 3 years to reach the iPhone, just in demo form.
So, even if Apple does allow Flash, which is not at all settled at the moment, it will still break important streaming content if Silverlight is not supported. Recall that Silverlight is a Microsoft product that is being pushed by the the full weight of the companies budget. It will become a full Flash competitor.
If Apple does ban Flash, as it has done in the past and is at least still partially doing on the iPad, and never supports Silverlight, it will not just fail to provide the “best browsing experience,” it will fail to provide a real browser. I don’t want to buy a brand new bike that has training wheels welded on to the back.
And this is one of the most intrinsic problems that I have with the iPad: it wants to use apps where a browser is sufficient. Chrome OS is moving in the opposite direction, and I feel that they are at least moving into the future. The iPad is a regression.
As the internet becomes even more integrated into the daily life of the average consumer, we hardly need to sell them a new device that breaks it.