Yesterday Steve Jobs announced his latest creation, the Apple iPad.
The Emperor has spoken and it’s very telling. Apple’s present and future is no longer about a fine-tuned combination of hardware and software. It’s also about being the content gatekeeper.
We finally know what kind of tablet computer the Apple folks were cooking! Basically, it’s a blend of an oversized iPod Touch and iPhone. At the same time, it’s really a computer; the chip looks much more powerful. It’s supposedly very fast. Like any first generation Apple product, it has a lot going for it while missing a few things. No real surprises except maybe the starting price and very surprised about seeing a touch version of iWorks.
What’s more telling about Steve’s strategy is the lack of support for Adobe Flash. Not that I am very fond of Flash, but it is very telling.
It’s all about control
It’s no secret Steve Jobs is a control freak. It has worked well for him. Since the first Apple computer, Apple has had an aversion for clones. Apple wants to control the whole experience starting from hardware. Forget about having an Orange, a Pear or a Peach. Like Eve, all you need is to get a bite out of the Apple and you’re hooked. (Their logo is really telling). By controlling hardware and software combined with their sense of design and controlled user experience they’ve been able to do what most tech giants still dream of.
But today, controlling the user experience is also all about controlling content distribution.
They’ve done a really good job with iTunes out of distributing songs for people to buy. Then, Apple added an App Store to iTunes to distribute and install software. It made sense: it is more user-friendly and practical. What a success it has been!
Now enters the iPad which uses exactly the same model than the iPhone or iPod Touch. To download and install and application you still need to go through the Apple store. Oh, and you can download books now.
The excuse for the lack of Flash support on the iPhone Safari browser was that it was using too much CPU. It would deter the user experience. It wasn’t a bad excuse. Heck! Flash is known to bring underpowered computers to a crawl. But that excuse doesn’t fly well with the iPad. Those who got to try the device were all raving on how fast it is with its new Apple designed chip.
I do not care that much about the lack of Flash on Web sites. It is usually more a pain than a gain.
On the other hand, Adobe is prepping Flash CS5 which allows to build iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad applications. Who needs Flash support? Adobe is building it in some way! Who needs Adobe Air support on the iPad computer? Here’s a solution!
That’s why I don’t see Flash being supported natively in the browser on the iPad or the iPhone. It would be a way for developers to distribute software in a Web page without going through the content distribution gatekeeper Apple has become. Do pass go, but we’ll charge a fee on your 200$!
Apple’s announcement of the iWorks software suite for the iPad was quite a surprise to me. Digesting this announcement means Apple does not see the iPad as just an oversized iPhone. It’s also a computer where you can get some sort of work done. With the new screen estate, I can see a lot of exciting business applications being built for this new toy. But again, all these will have to pass through the gatekeeper.
To conclude, I predict we will see App Store support for Mac applications in the near future. It would make perfect sense when you think of it. Users get to download everything in a single place. Invoices are easy to find. You are dealing with a single company you trust. Why download and install something from somewhere else? That’s really too hard and too risky!
I wouldn’t be surprised to someday see a new computer from Apple which will make everything even easier for the computer illiterate. It will support a mouse and keyboard when touch is not yet as efficient. You will be able to get some real work done with it. It will use a blend of the Mac OS and the iPad OS to offer a seamless experience from hardware to content consumption. We almost have this device with the iPad but it’s just a start. In a future near you, your Adobe PhotoShop or Microsoft Office installations for a Mac will probably be downloaded from Apple.
Image source: Bite me in the rain by *sherryetal
Some interesting articles popped-up on the subject after I wrote this:
- Alex Payne: “On the iPad“.
- Free Software Foundation: “iPad is iBad for freedom“.
- Dave Winer: “Attn Joe: Should we trust iPad?“.
- Adobe Blog: “Apple’s iPad — a broken link?“.
- Fortune Brainstorm Tech: “Behind the Adobe-Apple cold war“.