We've known for quite some time about the iPhone's inability to render Flash content within the mobile Safari browser, and based upon Apple's announcement of the iPad today, it looks like that device isn't going to do it, either.
Touted as a savior for the publishing business, this device will potentially revolutionize the delivery and commercialization of content.
But most publishers are publishing their content to the web. Via websites. And for those that don't yet have paywalls, they support their websites with advertising. Those ads are almost 100% rendered in Adobe's Flash. So when people use the iPad's web browser to visit their favorite newspaper (as Steve Jobs did in his keynote; see photo at right, courtesy of Engadget), they won't see the ads at all. That either means advertisers will need to stop building ads in Flash (no chance) or publishers will need to build app versions of their publications upon the iPad SDK (software development kit), resulting in a lot more work, a lot more time, a lot more resources.
Now, creating a parallel platform to the web may be the right thing to do if a $499 tablet becomes as ubiquitous as the iPod, but this is another classic example of Apple making development and distribution on their platforms more proprietary. It also makes publishers more reliant upon, in all likelihood, Apple's own ad-serving platform which was created through the acquisition of Quattro Wireless.
Whereas the iPhone created a marketplace for new content (apps), the iPad seeks to revolutionize existing ones (content publishing). If the company that owns the platform also owns the ad network, the ad format, and the ad tracking, is that too much control?
Now, this is all speculation at this point. I'm sure this will all play itself out as we get deeper in the SDK, and into the device itself, but this is definitely something to be discussed at your next ad sales meeting if you're a publisher. Media planners are going to have to get up to speed with a whole new platform. And creatives are going to have to learn to build in formats that take advantage of multitouch gesturing, video and a whole slew of other new possibilities without using Flash.
And maybe HTML 5 just got a whole lot more important.
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