No Flash flood in iPad avoidance

Among other things, NPD finds that consumers have no shortage of reasons to embrace or reject the iPad, but lack of Adobe Flash isn't a major inhibitor.

Ross Rubin
Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research, where he analyzes the adoption of consumer technology, and also publishes commentary at his blog, Techspressive.com. Previously, Ross was executive director and principal analyst at The NPD Group and vice president and chief research fellow at Jupiter Research.
Ross Rubin
3 min read

As Steve Jobs announced at the unveiling of iPhone OS 4, Apple's iPad has already sold half a million units in its first few weeks of availability and in advance of the availability of the more expensive, but more flexible, 3G version.

Apple iPad
Apple's iPad has drawn criticism for not supporting Adobe Flash, but in a prelaunch NPD survey, only a small percentage of those not interested in the device cited lack of Flash compatibility. Apple

This puts it on track to break most estimates of first-year sales. In defending Apple's entry into the space, Jobs noted that it was important for the iPad to do certain tasks better than either the smaller smartphone or larger notebook. Among those tasks were watching videos, reading books, and surfing the Web.

Indeed, the iPad's unique mixture of handheld usage, large and bright screen, long battery life, and powerful processor have set a bar for forthcoming slate products for certain intimate content consumption tasks, such as reading e-books and watching videos--those downloaded from iTunes or streamed through apps like those of Netflix and ABC. But while the iPad's browser is fast and friendly, it lacks support for Adobe Flash, a technology that many consider a critical component for enjoying the Web's breadth of content.

In its Apple iPad: Consumers' Perceptions and Attitudes study (PDF) fielded prior to the launch of the device, NPD surveyed consumers, asking them about whether they were interested in the iPad, and their reasons for interest or lack of interest.

Not surprisingly, those interested in the iPad said they were drawn to its physical attributes, including its multitouch screen and thin profile, whereas those who were not interested in it cited a lack of need and the product's "unbelievable" price as too expensive. Only 14 percent, though, of those not interested in the iPad cited the lack of Adobe Flash as an inhibitor to purchase.

Some might interpret this as consumers' lack of prioritization of Adobe Flash or the content that relies on it, or it could simply indicate that consumers do not equate the lack of Flash with the lack of access to many Web videos, including the content of popular sites such as Hulu. It is, of course, Apple's hope that such content providers will embrace Web standards that the iPad and iPhone support in lieu of, or at least in addition to, Flash, following in the footsteps of YouTube and Vimeo. Apple has even created an "iPad ready" Web page highlighting sites, such as CNET TV, that adhere to Web standards supported by the device.

Adobe Systems, on the other hand, has had a difficult time raising awareness of Flash's role, in part a victim of its own success. With such high penetration of the installed base of PCs, Flash is so ubiquitous that it may be taken for granted by many. The company's efforts with smartphone vendors may soon make it equally ubiquitous on handset platforms other than the iPhone, on which Apple seems intent on keeping its ban of the technology.

Until now, for all the controversy about the iPhone's lack of Flash support, it's effectively given Apple a directional, rather than actual, disadvantage, with respect to competitive phones. But Adobe now has an opportunity to promote the existence of Flash on other handsets, particularly as version 10.1 of the technology provides the first practical "desktop" Flash experience to these products.

Among other reasons cited for avoiding the iPad, there were several that will probably never be addressed. This fall, though, Apple may yet win over those citing the next most popular reason for avoiding the iPad after its lack of Flash, as iPhone OS 4.0 brings multitasking to Apple's slate.