With new iPad due, old issue abides

As Apple makes the iPad's internals more laptop-like, a longstanding issue seems to get more pronounced.

As Apple amps up the iPad to makes its performance more MacBook-Air-like, an old nemesis persists. That would be Adobe Flash.

The iPad experience would improve with native Flash support.
The iPad experience would improve with native Flash support. Adobe

The Apple propaganda machine and the cadre of zealots who fiercely defend anything Apple undertakes would lead you to believe that you don't need Flash video. I still don't buy it.

First, a confession. Every personal computing device I use on a daily basis is an Apple product. An iPhone, iPad, and a couple of MacBook Airs. And I have been using the iPad every day since the 3G version came out. And have, more than once, sung its praises .

However, the lack of native support for Adobe Flash rears its ugly, practicality-subverting head way too often. Of course, this is just a personal opinion. But that doesn't mean I'm alone.

I'm not going to list all of the things I do that require Flash. Suffice to say when I surf the Web, Flash always seems to be hiding in some uncharted but necessary nook or cranny. Small business sites use Flash, a lot of hobbyist Web sites still require Flash, and entertainment sites use Flash. But I really don't think I need to explain this, it's readily apparent to almost anyone.

In other words, the burden is not on me to list all of the sites out there that use Flash. The burden is on Apple to convince me that it's right to refuse to support a standard that's baked into the Web.

Yeah, yeah, I know the argument about how Flash is a power hog, unstable, and performance-challenged. And Apple has a point. But that choice should be up to the user, i.e., use Flash at your own risk.

I find that I need Flash typically only briefly but very necessarily. What workarounds exist? Well, Hulu has an app called Hulu Plus that works in some cases, others not. And there are other apps like Skyfire. Or, as a last resort, ilivex, a remote Linux app that let's you use the Firefox browser. As just a few examples.

But this is not native support. And why is native support important? Just read the Skyfire fine print: "We do not support all Web sites that use Flash video. We are working hard at it...But we cannot guarantee that your favorite site is already on the list."

This leads to the proverbial elephant in the room. The Motorola Xoom. Though it doesn't support Flash video yet, it will soon. Apple would really have to do some creative spin doctoring to depict native Flash support as a Xoom shortcoming.

And that's almost reason enough to snap up a Xoom. Decisions, decisions.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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