Another day, another set of tech company feuds. Some of you may know that Apple, Google and the Federal Trade Commission are looking into whether anything is amiss when Google people and Apple people are on each others executive boards. Well, whoop-dee-doo. I’d argue they’re in different tech sectors altogether, but with the announcement of Google’s Chrome OS (i.e. Linux), and the fact that the second generation of Android-based smart-phones are on the horizon, maybe there is some credibility there.
I’m a big fan of strategy games, and I think the smartphone market is the perfect place to whet my appetite with a good bit of strategy talk. Palm and Google have said that each of their respective mobile-platform operating systems, WebOS and Android, are going to eventually support Adobe’s Flash standard. Great! Right?
Apple has continually refused to nudge on the Flash-support front, and, from the Apple point-of-view, I think this is a rather smart move. First off, Apple’s always going to tick off a few people that are really wanting to see Flash on the iPhone. However, as Apple continues to gain marketshare, up from 5% to 10% over the last year, I think we will notice companies think twice about putting any content in the public domain that cannot be accessed by the entire smartphone market. Translation: if Apple’s market share continues to climb, more and more websites are going to have to find a method of making their product or company available to their entire user-base, and that means stripping Flash from their websites and opting for XHTML (or HTML5 whenever that one comes to fruition).
So what does Apple gain from not supporting Flash? I think their goal would be to make obsolete the Flash standard. If every other smartphone has spent time to bring such functionality to market, and it becomes moot, that means Apple has that much more strength. Apple’s never been a company to be “open” and, in fact, remains quite closed. I think we’ll see that Apple, by slowing development and deployment of Flash-based applications, will erode the future need to become “open” on any alternative platform. We won’t see Apple cave to anyone if they can move this mountain (or rather, prevent it from moving). If users were really wanting Flash and started buying Palm’s Pre in place of the iPhone, I think we’d see the chink in Apple’s armor become bigger, but if users accept the lack of Flash functionality, the use of Flash-based applications will, in turn, dissapate.
The RIAA really wanted Apple to have DRM in the iTunes store, but after Apple got enough of the downloadable music market, look what happened… Suddenly the RIAA’s bargaining power was lost because Apple was strong enough to say that DRM wasn’t gonna fly with them anymore. Sure enough, if Apple gets to the point where businesses are purposefully not using Flash because they don’t want to alienate potential end-users then Apple has more strength down the road negotiating standards and formats. This is something that could be massively powerful for the company when they do support a specific technology…