Probably the hottest debate about iPad has been the argument about the significance of Apple’s apparent decision not to support Adobe’s Flash on the device. Paul Boutin on VentureBeat listed the lack of Flash as the No. 2 reason not to buy an iPod, while Daring Fireball’s John Gruber argues that sites such as Hulu.com will simply provide non-Flash alternatives.
It think Gruber is right that the big commercial sites using Flash to deliver video will adapt, as YouTube has, to support what is likely to be a large and voracious audience of iPad buyers, as well as owners of Flash-less iPhones and iPod Touches. On the other hand, iPad buyers are going to miss flash, not so much because of video but because of the large number of Web sites that are built on Flash and just don;t work well or at all without it.
Personally, I find Flash-based sites a pain and wish they would go away. But it is simply a fact that a huge number of, for example, restaurant sites are built on Flash. Some, such as San Francisco’s Gary Danko offer an HTML alternative, but if you want info on Daniel Boloud’s empire, you’re out of luck without Flash. The fact is that these sites probably wouldn’t be very unable on the iPhone even if it had Flash because viewing this sort of page on a small screen is very difficult. The big-screen iPad is much more problematic.
The big video sites will provide alternative to Flash because they can afford to and because they have to. As Gruber writes, “Hulu is a video site, not a Flash site.” But restaurants on others who have built Flash sites are basically small businesses and rebuilting their sites to support Apple’s whims, especially in tough times, is going to be a big challenge. But while iPad owners will find it annoying not to be able to visit certain sites in the browser, I don’t think this will scare away a large number of buyers as long as the key video sites are ready with with iPad-friendly versions.