So it turns out Steve Jobs does not like Flash, and won’t be allowing it onto the iPad in the foreseeable future. This creates the first dent in the Flash player’s ubiquity for many years and leaves a more complex set of web development choices ahead of us.
Rather than get into the debate over whether Flash is good or evil, I would like to discuss what options are available for delivering rich interactive experiences on the web today. Most developers don’t have a philosophical preference over which tools they use, they simply want the technology that can provide the best experience while reaching the most users. With that in mind, let’s look at some numbers.
How Big is the iPad?
The iPad is selling phenomenally well and may be the herald of a new era in computing. That said, if we look at the web usage numbers for the iPad’s progenitors, we see that the usage numbers do not equate to the amount of media buzz these devices get.
In the last 12 months, mobile web usage accounted for 1.48% of total web usage, versus desktop usage at 98.52%.
Of that number 32% came from iDevices (iPhone + iPod Touch). That gives iDevices a whopping 0.45% of total web usage. Lets be generous and say the iPad doubles this usage in the coming year. That will give iDevices around 1% of total web usage in the coming year. Admittedly, mobile usage is about to explode and iDevices will be part of that, but I think it’s important to keep some perspective on the current state of the market.
What About HTML5?
For example, based on current browser usage, 71% of web users cannot view the HTML5 video tag. This means that that building a website solely in HTML5 is not currently an option. Since IE9 will support HTML5, the IE9 adoption rates will be the deciding factor as to when we can start targeting HTML5
Where Does this Leave Web Developers Now?
So what should we recommend to our clients who want a brand experience or RIA today? It depends 🙂
- If you need complex animations, interactivity, games, video, audio, web cam support, etc – build it in Flash. Your content will be viewable by the vast majority of web users. In addition, build a simplified HTML version for non-Flash devices. This is typically what we have been doing since the first web accessible mobile devices came around.
Personally I find it hard to believe that Apple can single-handedly kill Flash when it is so ubiquitous on the web and has such a huge and loyal developer community. I still hold out hope that Flash will eventually come to the iPad in the same way that multitasking came to the iPhone. In the short-term, iPad users will be locked out from a lot of great content. Only when HTML5 browser support and tooling is broadly available can we start looking at developing RIAs with it.