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This gadget life: The lack of Flash on the iPad

 

Zillow iPad appThe lack of Flash on the iPad really came home to me this week.

I’ve been using Zillow to do some house hunting. Zillow has a dedicated iPad app, which is why I use it instead of Trulia.com or Realtor.com. The Zillow app is a good experience on the iPad, not groundbreaking, but totally solid.

For the uninitiated, using the app is simply a case of manipulating a Google Maps pane on the left of the screen to display properties details on the right. There are search filters, market data for the property being viewed and a photo viewer.

I tried the regular Zillow site on a laptop this week. I won’t say whether it was a PC or Mac, but the experience was significantly worse. The site was slow to load, Flash crashed twice and the search information was presented in a less friendly way compared to Zillow’s iPad app, which is optimized for the iDevice’s screen resolution. I went straight to Trulia.com.

The messages I take from this (admittedly singular) example are as follows. I find that I almost always use dedicated iPad apps rather than a browser where possible. If there are competing sites providing similar information I will almost always use the one that has a dedicated iPad app if I’m using my iPad. Lastly I’m glad for the first time that the iPad doesn’t support Flash because I think its omission has encouraged sites to create good dedicated apps. Zillow is a case in point.

Neil Berman

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Mar 29, 2011 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , | Leave a comment

theONbutton’s Flash HD video test: Hardware acceleration Mac vs PC

Flash has gained huge amounts of column inches in 2010.  This is mostly because of Apple’s current stance of not including it on the iPad while claiming at the same time that the iPad will be the best way to experience the Web.  Many commentators have disagreed with this statement because Flash is integral to so much online multimedia content.  As we previously explained part of Apple’s contention is that Flash is too processor intensive, which we agree with, and the company is pushing for HTML5 to be more widely adopted as an alternative.  Meanwhile as we also previously explained, Adobe is taking steps to use graphics hardware to accelerate Flash HD video decoding, which promises to allow smooth playback of content on computers with supported graphics cards.  The problem for Apple users is that due to the ongoing sparring between Apple and Adobe …continue reading

Mar 11, 2010 Posted by | Reviews, Software, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flash 10.1 Beta 3 brings GPU acceleration to GMA500 netbooks

MSI X320

The MSI X320 will benefit from the GMA500 support

There’s a funny dynamic going on in the world of Flash which, let’s remember is used by almost the whole world.  On the one hand the likes of Apple are trying to encourage the world away from Flash because it is a processor hog and towards HTML5 instead.  While on the other hand Adobe is demonstrably working to make Flash HD video run better on lesser hardware by enabling …continue reading

Feb 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Android gets Flash

The Apple Flash issue came to the fore recently when  Steve Jobs announced the iPad and today Google dropped a flash bomb on Cupertino by adding Flash to Android.

As we and much of the world noted recently, the iPhone and subsequent Apple devices running its OS such as the iPod Touch and iPad do not support Flash.  This means that they need special apps to access certain internet media content like YouTube videos and many websites just don’t work on those devices.  Windows Phone 7, announced on Monday, will also initially ship without Flash support.  Today however Google announced that Flash 10.1 will be available for Android, setting up the platform to offer a unique feature set in the smartphone market.

We know that Flash can be a resource hog on full power computers, sometimes causing Macs to crash, so I was curious to see how fluid the experience would be.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find this demo of a Motorola Droid running Flash videos on YouTube in a browser perfectly, and even managing to switch from portrait to landscape without missing a beat.  Can iPhone and Windows Phone 7 really afford to sit this one out?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 17, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, News, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

iPad, Flash and HTML5: What’s it all about?

Since the iPad announcement last week, much discussion has focused upon the iPad’s lack of Flash support. So what is Flash and why are people getting so upset?

What is Flash?

Flash is a hugely popular a software technology which many websites use for animations, video and other multimedia services like music streaming. According to its producer, Adobe, Flash is used by almost …continue reading

Feb 2, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Software | , , , , | 6 Comments

Apple iPad: A well-priced compromise, but should you buy one?

Today I found myself following a now familiar pattern for Apple press events.  Full of anticipation at the start, perhaps even fear of how I might feel if the event ends up being a letdown.  Anticipation building further during the introduction and megadownloadfiguresfinancialshyperbole etc.  Product announcement YAY!  Features look great, I’m pretty sure I want one.  Price way better than expected, definitely want one NOW.  Presentation ends. The dust settles and reality starts to kick in; my 100% enthusiasm starts to get tempered.  Seriously if the iPad had been live in the online store immediately after the announcement I would now be waiting for UPS.  After a few hours of thinking it over here’s how I feel about the iPad…

Most importantly the price feels right, given that this is a limited functionality computer.  The iPad is not a fully-featured tablet computer, we are going to see devices from PC manufacturers this year which can do more.  What kind of more?  Multitasking for one thing (pun intended).  Desktop-class application choice for another (no Photoshop right now on the iPad or any other native OSX apps) and better connectivity options (no SD card slot or webcam on the iPad).  Given these limitations the entry price of $499 seems fair.

Although it has a thick screen surround, it looks great and is as super thin as we would expect.  The promised battery life of ten hours is extremely encouraging and suggests an efficient processor design, I wonder how that will be affected by full-on 3G usage…The downside of the energy efficiency is that the graphics did not look particularly impressive, but we need to give developers time over the coming months to learn and exploit the new hardware.

iBooks was nice but I can’t get too excited about ebook software.  While it will definitely grow in popularity it’s not going to take the world by storm in the same way as digital music.  We don’t hear about industry problems of people trying to illegally download books unlike the environment which preceded mass digital music adoption.  With digital music there was a mass market ready and waiting to be tapped by a legal download service, which is what iTunes did so effectively.  With ebooks the mass market needs to be educated and developed further for it to become a cash cow. Also the iPad’s glossy backlit screen may not be so comfortable to focus upon for extended periods compared to the Kindle’s e-ink screen, especially outdoors.  I expect however that most people will overlook this limitation, if they are even aware of it, and be drawn to the wider appeal of the iPad.

The old fashioned 4:3 screen aspect is a peculiar choice given that one of today’s demos was a movie which is best viewed in 16:9 or 16:10 widescreen.  While a clear use-case of the iPad is as a media device, watching modern releases will almost always result in black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

The lack of Flash support is simply stunning.  While Apple describes the iPad as the best way to experience the web, I’m not convinced.  The lack of Flash support on small screens is forgiveable, but on a media-centric large screen device it just seems like a glaring omission.  This means no Hulu on the iPad and many popular sites will have elements which will not work.

Wide on-screen keyboards are pretty difficult to type on because the middle keys are a stretch, so the keyboard dock with screen support makes sense.  I think I was the only person out there who CALLED THIS ONE! I like the idea of iWork on the iPad, but only with an external keyboard.  I do feel that once you get a hardware keyboard going you want a mouse as well so you don’t have to raise your arm every two seconds to manipulate the screen.  Unfortunately the iPad does not support mice, so get ready for some arm exercise if you’re sitting with the iPad mounted on a stand in front of you.

Bottom line, will the iPad be a popular device?  Probably yes, because I expect people in the market for a high end $300-400 ebook reader like a Kindle DX could be tempted to stretch to $499 for something offering useful internet, media and email functionality.  The price point will also win over some netbook shoppers.  However I think that Apple’s description of the iPad as being “magical and revolutionary” over-compensates hype in place of some of the device’s deficiencies.  Evolutionary sure, insofar as this device is upscaled from the existing iPhone software and hardware paradigm.  At a lower price point netbooks are able to do basic tasks that the iPad can’t; like making video calls, accepting memory cards and handling Flash.  Fortunately for the sales figures most people probably believe the hype and will be happy with a $499 device which can only run one application at once.  It’s in a way ironic that the media criticized PC manufacturers and Microsoft for shipping Windows 7 Starter on some low end netbooks, which is limited to only run three applications simultaneously, yet I’ve seen minimal comment on the iPad’s limitation of only being able to run one app.

The wider question is whether Main Street needs a secondary or tertiary internet device, when many people have already invested in a netbook or iPhone to supplement their everyday computer.  And while I said earlier I believe the entry price of $499 is fair, it’s certainly not an impulse buy.  The range extends to $829 for a 64GB model with 3G capability; AT&T unlimited data connectivity adds another $30 per month on top of that.  This takes the first year cost of an $829 iPad with unlimited data to around $1,189.  Fundamentally though, if you already have an iPhone, how likely are you really to buy an iPad?  I’d say it would be a tough sell because the iPhone already has the core away-from-home functionality in a more convenient size and weight.  Perhaps the basic $499 version might make sense to use at home if you love the iPhone OS, since you can bring your iPhone apps onto the iPad.

Am I going to buy one?  I’ve gone from 100% yes to 60% yes 50% over the course of the five nine hours since the announcement and I’m stabilizing, so I think it’s probable possible.  I wouldn’t need a lot of storage in a device like this so personally I’d go for the 16GB model with 3G and just pray for AT&T to improve its network.  Still three months to go until the 3G model is available though and I have a feeling a lot of tablets will be announced between now and then…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 27, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, News, Software | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

YouTube and Flash HD video to become smoother for some

This one has been a long time coming, but praise be: Adobe Flash with graphics hardware acceleration is in Beta release. There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for exhausted computers.

What this means is that if you have a supported video card then Flash will soon be able to use it to decode video streams coming from Flash based sites like Youtube and Hulu. These video streams, especially the HD content, often bring computers to their knees because the processor has to do all the decoding work at present.

It’s not all roses and romance though, because the new version of Flash will not love all video cards. Most importantly it does support acceleration on Intel’s 4 series chipset, such as the GMA4500MHD, which is found in many mainstream laptops. Other supported cards include ATI’s 4xxx series, some 3xxx series ones and most of Nvidia’s 8xxx, 9xxx, GT1xx and GT2xx ranges.

Notably the older Intel GMA950 and X3100 chipsets, commonly found in netbooks and previous generation laptops, are not supported so continue to expect some less than ideal viewing experiences on these platforms. If you can find a site which streams using Silverlight you might have better luck; for example my netbook happily runs Netflix which uses Silverlight.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Nov 17, 2009 Posted by | News | , , , | 5 Comments

   

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