Left Out

Fear of iPad is now beginning to circulate with increasing velocity. It seems folks are realizing that regardless of how many things were left off the machine, it still will be bought by virtually everybody on the planet who cares about tech and its show business arm, social media. That means it’s going to be a huge galactic success. That in turn means we have to be very afraid of Uncle Steve owning our data.

Dave Winer suggests this in his second of two posts in a row. Of course, Dave alternates between decrying the locked trunk aspects of the system’s design and crying wolf about the end result when all these mistakes end up as a raging success. In fact, Dave may have hit on an unintended truth in all of this debunking. Namely, it’s what’s been left out that really defines the iPad.

Take Flash. Please. When Jobs quarantined it on the iPhone, we all felt it was a tactical thing, more political than technical. Of course, it’s never been technical, even now when it’s kept off the iPad because it is responsible for such a great percentage of crashes in Safari or whatever. Actually, Flash is being kept off the iPlatform because It Sucks. Google’s HTML 5 liturgy is another contiguous example of how to sell the same message, but enquiring minds still want to know why we need a plug-in from a company that makes its real money from Photoshop.

The Adobe guys are terrific engineers who’ve built a wonderful ecosystem off of a hole in the Arctic Circle of computing called cross-platform ubiquity. But what happens when the OS sucks in the functionality of such a play, as Windows did to Symantec with desktop replacements, compression, and various system management utilities? Oh, and security (remember Bill Gates’ parting push to protect us from the network.) Most recently I heard from Symantec in the form of a Facebook giveaway or some such. And Google now produces software, services, browsers, and OS under the same plan. They can afford it; Adobe can’t.

So it comes down to this: if a site hosts Flash, they are making the same choice WordPerfect made in building an OS/2 version instead of a Windows one. This was when Microsoft was finally getting Windows up above the radiation layer of DOS, where WordPerfect had a stranglehold on the word processing market. IBM’s version of the nextgen OS was superior in many technical ways, but Microsoft had more money than God and they threw it at IBM and its DOS legacy stakeholders like Google did with Office a generation later.

There are certainly good arguments to be made for why Flash has legs, but unfortunately for those who make them they’re bucking Apple and its faux competitor Google. When you click on a YouTube icon in the browser, it launches on Flash. When you click on it in iPlatform it launches on HTML5, or rather the only part Flash cares about. YouTube owns most of the video market, so the user experience is that YouTube works everywhere. User bets on YouTube. They don’t care about HTML 5 or Flash, they want to see the movie, thanks goodbye.

Same with multitasking. Music evidently plays in the background with photos. Remember cut and paste on iPhone 1? No. With iPhone OS 3.0 they fixed that. Remember no video streaming? They fixed that. Didn’t have to buy a new one to fix that stuff, only to upgrade the speed and wait out AT&T’s buildout. Multitasking? Who knows whether we’ll even have to wait past the 3G iPad launch or even care, since we do most of our work inside multi-tabbed browsers. In other words, virtualize multitasking on the server side.

No USB. It’s going to be Christmas in July for the peripheral manufacturers plugging into the charging connector. No camera? If my iPhone can send clips to the Ustream site where they are automagically rendered in H.264 for live streaming, then maybe they can make their way into the Pad over WiFi or god forbid Bluetooth. Or a little clip-on at the top of the screen. The MacBook AIr is being componetized while undergoing an OS transplant. Goodbye Flash, no really. They’ll be able to hang on the way Microsoft demoed Silverlight video streaming down to the iPhone. The portability layer moves to the dev tools.

When we look at Google we think Cloud, but what’s really surprising is how we don’t notice how Cloud Apple has become. The magic of streaming has found its home with this device and the ones to quickly follow. Nothing is left out; it’s been moved to the Cloud where the bits are assembled and streamed back down. If there was anything left out of the iPad announcement, it was a better way of communicating how powerful this platform is and is becoming. No wonder developers are already complaining about only having 90 days to write the first wave of software. Contrary to what Dave Winer warns, they’re more afraid of being left out than locked in.

The Gillmor Gang on the iPad, with Nicholas Carr, Doc Searls, Robert Scoble, and Kevin Marks. Recorded live Thursday, January 28, 2009.