Apple Death Knell #53: John Dvorak Declares iPad a Non-Starter

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Death Knell: Something that indicates impending failure, as in His low scores sounded the death knell for his ambitions. The noun knell, used for the ringing of a bell since at least a.d. 1000, is rarely heard today except in this figurative phrase.

ZOMG! Do I really get to write another Apple Death Knell after all these years!??!? Thanks to the introduction of the iPad and John C. Dvorak's tireless efforts in pushing our buttons, you betcha!

If I'd have been smarter, I would have started a pool on how long it would take for an iPad Is Doomed/Apple Has Failed kind of piece to hit the Interwebs, but how do you take the over//under on whether it would be Mr. Dvorak or our ol' friend Rob Enderle?

So if you're new to the world of Apple, or perhaps just new to The Mac Observer, it used to be that analysts and pundits everywhere would frequently and loudly proclaim Apple's impending death, the demise of the Mac, and all other manner of doom and gloom for the company.

This was rooted in part on the very real problems Apple was having, but it was greatly exacerbated by the fact that most (or all) of these numbnuts didn't understand Apple or its business model, the same business model the company continues to follow with such great success today.

A common theme was that Apple would have to move to either license Mac OS/Mac OS X out, like Microsoft, or better yet, stop making Macs and license Windows! Those were my favs.

We collected 52 of these through January of 2007 in a collection we called The Apple Death Knell Counter (ADKC for short) - complete with the relevant doom quote for those pieces that were later pulled - and the reality is that there were likely more than 100 or so more that we couldn't find (and therefore backup with a link), or just didn't come across.

It's been more than three years ago, though, since we've seen a real Death Knell, largely because Apple is kicking ass, taking names, sorting those names alphabetically, indexing them according to age, sex, hair color, height, and weight, and then assigning them a risk factor for needing additional ass-kicking in the future.

In other words, it's hard even for analysts who don't understand the whole widget business model to decry doom in the face of Apple's massive success.

Ah, but the pundit...that's another story.

And thus enters Mr. Dvorak. Now to be fair, I think most of us realize today that John C. Dvorak doesn't believe a third of what he writes about Apple. He has admitted on camera that his role is to make up stuff to push our buttons and generate traffic for his publisher.

For that reason, I usually only pay attention to him (in the context of judging what constitutes news for The Mac Observer) when he writes something particularly poignant, which is usually not about Apple, but that's just nitpicking.

Today, he serves as sort of a stand-in for everyone who doesn't get the iPad, for all those people who, over the next six months to a year, will proclaim the device DOA until the huge sales volumes that Apple will undoubtably eventually see with this device make them pretend they'd never said anything to begin with.

In a piece for Marketwatch, Mr. Dvorak opined that the iPad was far from revolutionary, that it was seriously flawed, and that it would take a few more iterations for Apple to get it right.

Wrote he, "Jobs himself is a tech maven constantly looking for nifty new developments that he can employ in Apple products. Apparently when it comes to tablet computing, this is the best he can do. Insanely great it is not. [...] The tablet market has only succeeded as a niche market over the years and it was hoped Apple would dream up some new paradigm to change all that. From what I've seen and heard, this won't be it."

To that end, he cites the fact that "people are grousing" about the iPad, which is Super Serious™ because even when people bitch about Apple, they never bitch about its products.

You know, as if that were true.

He then identifies the three things people are grousing about: There's no stylus (who the hell thought there would be a stylus?), there's no camera (I do, at least, get that one, even if it's not a "deal-killer" for me), and it doesn't run Mac apps (this one is just plain stupid).

He added, "These three gripes are just the beginning of a litany of complaints from the fact that it cannot run two programs at once or it has no telephony capability."

Doom! Doom I tell you!

I mean, seriously, that's a nonsense list of nonsense complaints by a few people who so very, very much fit into the category of people that John Martellaro warned us about, and people who don't get what I explained a couple of days ago.

As I said then, the success if the iPad will hinge on what it can do, not what it can't do.

Congrats, I suppose, to Mr. Dvorak for being the first inductee into the ADKC in almost four years. Oh, and this is his third appearance in our list.

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He’s about as relevant as Puxatawny Phil today.

It will happen with or without his comment.


John Dvorak hasn’t been right about squat since he said the mouse was a stupid idea back in 1984.

I wonder how it feels to be consistently WRONG for two-and-a-half decades.


I wonder how he makes a living being so consistently wrong. Maybe people read him and do the opposite. Maybe it’s like a mirror image of the movie The Cooler. Dvorak’s presence and constant statements about how Apple is going to fail CAUSE Apple to hit home-run after home run.

It’s nice work if you can get it.


Ask Ballmer…  smile~


I wonder how it feels to be consistently WRONG for two-and-a-half decades.

Ask Ballmer.  smile

(Sorry…forgot my quote)


Now we know the iPad will be a huge success.  Both Microsoft and Dvorak have given their usual opinion.  Microsoft out of fear, Dvorak out of, well Dvorak.

Keith Smith

When are people gonna figure out that Apple’s approach is different?  No puns intended here.  Everyone is shrinking the laptop down, building it as cheaply as they can, and calling it a netbook.  Apple is taking their highly successful iPhone / iPod Touch and building that bigger.  Different approach that nets much the same results.  It’s not meant to replace a laptop.  Why should it run a laptop OS?  It’s meant to be a tote-around-the-home media interface - movies, books, magazines, music, the web, email.  Done.


>I wonder how it feels to be consistently WRONG for
>two-and-a-half decades

As the article suggests - because he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. Consider how many newspapers employ controversial columnists, who don’t have any consistent line other than pushing the readerships buttons.

The problem is when serious news outlets turn to people like Dvorak or Enderle for quotes.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bryan, the point about the grousing is the main point of the article. And yeah, I’m a willing participant in it. Curiously, Guy Kawasaki (the original Mac Evangelist) is another willing participant. As I linked in another comment, NPR is also a participant, panning the iPad for only having one software channel from an end-user perspective. Many people do not trust one company to get everything right. And we continue to see poor judgment by Apple in this space. AT&T, need I say more? Well, I do need to say more. The attitude from Apple is that despite all the complaints, AT&T is the best. That may very well be true, but what customers want is the ability to make that choice themselves. Google gets it with Nexus One. They got on T-Mobile initially, but have hurried to make the phone available on Verizon, AT&T 3G, and Sprint. Google respects that its customers may have different affinities or commitments to their carriers. For example, switching my 5 phone Family Plan to AT&T from Sprint for two iPhones has proven to be a giant mistake, and I was way past the end of my Sprint contract.

With cell phones, customers would tolerate a lot of Apple bullshitake because the phone looked cool and you could get some fun apps that would pass a few minutes in line and remain connected to your digital world when you’re out and about. iPhone is not your primary email or web client. It just works well enough in places your laptop or desktop doesn’t. Subsidized, it’s couple or a few hundred for the device, and you pay a monthly cell phone bill anyway.

But the iPad starts at $500, it’s too big to carry everywhere. To justify spending that (or upwards of $900), you’d think it would have to be solid enough that you’d want to make it an important device. Without the ability to take handwritten notes or view things on the web that tens of millions of people interact with daily (FarmVille), it’s just an expensive (but beautiful) digital photo frame that can browse the web or play a game in a pinch.

All Apple had to do was make it a Mac Tablet under $1000 and they’d have had a sure-fire winner. Throw in a seamless iPod Touch emulator if they just had to go there with the App Store. Instead, they are shipping something that will be hated for a long time because it will signify the triumph of an aging man’s ego over what customers have clearly expressed that they want. It’s sad for the company, and even more sad that the market might give it any justification.


We collected 52 of these through January of 2007 in a collection we called The Apple Death Knell Counter (ADKC for short)

I posted my 1st Windows death knell in response to one of those, back then when Apple announced itunes for Windows. I think I gave it 10 years before sinking into obscurity. Nobody took me seriously then, and I imagine most still don’t. Just wait and see.


I find it funny how people take their own views and opinions and translate it to “customers”, “end users” and “the people”. The fact of the matter is that, quite frankly, most people don’t seem to care about “vendor lock-in”, etc. Customers DO make choices themselves. If they do not like something, they DON’Y BUY IT.

The ones who are so vehemently complaining about not getting “what they have clearly expressed that they want” are the technorati. Most people in the world have been blissfully unaware that Apple was even working on a tablet computer, because they don’t watch the tech press for every little hint of what Apple is doing.

3 BILLION downloads from the app store in 18 months seems to indicate that using the app store is not an issue people get wrapped around the axle about. At least not the average person. Techies are a different story. They are also not the target audience. The success or failure of the iPad (still don’t like the name) will hinge on the average consumer, not the tech press or the geek squads. Personally, I think it will be a success. Is it perfect? Not at all. But most of the areas where it is deemed lacking can be taken care of with software updates. Flash support? Not yet. But SJ and Apple have changed their minds before, and this one is a no-brainer to fix.

Bryan Chaffin

Bosco, you’re just wrong on this one.

I’ll repeat: The success of the iPad will hinge on what it can do, not what it can’t do.

I very much understand why you don’t want one, but you are projecting, and you aren’t making any allowance for folks who think differently (joke completely unintended) about their computers and devices.

Time will tell, but I think you’re prognostications are going to look just as silly as some of the ADKC entries about Mac OS X, Apple Stores, iPods, and iPhones.


I think the price point is pretty good—$499 is only $10 more than the Kindle DX, and given I have an iPhone, I don’t see where I would need to have 3G functionality. And you can do way more on the iPad than the Kindle even in this first iteration.

Also, the e-ink on the Kindle, etc, may be a better overall reading experience, but I am an insomniac, and it’s been great being able to read text on my iPhone without needing additional lighting.

I don’t see myself buying an iPad until at least the next generation, but these were my initial thoughts on seeing it—an ereader that lets you also watch video and play games. Pretty cool!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bryan, I’m gonna coin a new word to describe the iPad: “devicive”. It is truly the most divisive device in the history of consumer electronics and computing. Engadget readers might note that they have shut comments down for a few days, due mainly to the nastiness on all sides and sometimes directed at the site’s proprietors concerning the iPad. When it is released, I have no doubt that the smug will be waiting in line for it and just as many people will be standing around calling them d-bags. If Apple had called it the ObamaPad instead of the iPad, it wouldn’t have been much worse on the devicive front.

My Mom and my Grandmother, who would typify the users that fans think this thing is aimed at, will not be in line to get one. Even if I wasn’t around to threaten to never help them with their email or web questions again if they brought one of these gawdawful monstrosities into their home (haha), they wouldn’t get one. It’s not an issue of money. My Grandfather just dropped $800 on a glorified brake job for his old ‘88 BMW 5-series. This is chump change to them. And $500-$800 is no hurdle at all to anyone in this country who really, really wants one of these things. The price is not the problem, and is the one thing that Apple might have done right.

My Mom does a lot of embroidery. She volunteers to road test designs for a few of the best designers in the home-embroidery market. They send her .pez files as email attachments, which she gets on her MBP, copies to a flash drive, and loads up on her Baby Lock sewing/embroidery machine. Far too often, the files get lost in translation or the flash drive gets corrupted and needs to be reformatted, but she gets it done. That’s really as complicated as things get for her, and the MBP is complete overkill, of course. So how does that workflow work on this iPad that is presumably designed for her? My point is that this idealized simpleton customer that everyone thinks is the Apple target with this thing must be a frigging mind-numbed robot who needs his computer to work not just like a television, but like a TV that doesn’t even have picture-in-picture or a built-in program guide. With the (lack of) hardware interface alone, the iPad is effectively a non-starter with anyone who does the slightest bit of interesting. And the iPad apologists would label my Mom some sort of power user or technophile or whatever. Or they’d label my grandmother and her friends atypical because they spend an hour a day forwarding PowerPoint chain letters to each other (like everyone else’s grandmother and 3/4 of the people that work in your office). Hilarious! What then puts the iPad over the top into the newly created devicive category is that Steve Jobs gets up and says that users don’t really need to do those things, that the Apple way is better.

I’ll say it again… Apple has come up with an amazing product for a brand new category: beautiful (but kinda pricey) digital photo frames that can browse the web in a pinch. Maybe it will make inroads on the Wii for interactive one-player games. But it isn’t much more.


Tech geeks/pundits are just bummed that the most advanced mobile computing device, something that looks like it fell out of a sci-fi flick, wasn’t designed for them.


Whatever Bosco! you have a hat?

Bryan Chaffin

Bosco, I’ve come to honestly respect you over the years, even, and perhaps especially, when we’re on different sides of an issue, which is often. smile

In this case, though, you are missing something significant, and it starts with trying to fit the iPad into preconceived “workflows.”

The iPad is simply not going fit into most existing work or playflows.  It’s a new thing, and it will be used (or fail) according to new uses.

I’ll repeat some arguments I’ve made in the past, but hopefully in a new way that may make something click:

If this device does anything better than a laptop and/or better than a smartphone, people will buy it and do those things with it.

That’s it.

Everything you can not do with it and everything that is better on either a laptop or smartphone is utterly irrelevant.

It’s OK for that to be wrong for you. It’s OK for you not to want it. It’s OK for you to want something else.

None of which is meant to be patronizing, which I fear it sounded. :(



You are doing it again; you are projecting. Once again, the stats are very clear. Vast majority of people DON’T do embroidery (whatever is a .PEZ file???). They don’t edit QuarkXPress files, they don’t use AutoCAD or Photoshop, or Final Cut. Vast majority (perhaps 95%) of today’s laptop buyers use them to surf web, access e-mail, music, YouTube, Facebook and manage pictures. They occasionally create a Word document and look at PowerPoint slide show. All of these can be done much more easily and intuitively on the iPad.

The device will be out the gate in two months. And six months later, there will be thousands of apps developed specifically to take advantage of the screen size and power of it. Who knows, perhaps even for opening those PEZ embroidery files.


Ha ha, I have to point out that you are also on the Apple Death Knell Counter list Bryan - from way back in 1997. smile  To be fair though, I realize that the time you wrote that article was during Apple’s darkest days.

Regarding doomsayers: I just thought it was cool that you actually used the term “numbnuts” to describe the thoughtless predictions of where Apple is supposedly headed… because that’s what numbnuts do: opine based not on expertise but blatant bias.

As far as the iPad’s success, yeah, time will tell. It’s hard to say; it’s probably not going to take off quite as well as the iPhone has, but I think Apple stands to sell a billion or two worth of them, this year alone.


In this case, though, you are missing something significant, and it starts with trying to fit the iPad into preconceived ?workflows.?


That has to be the most patronizing and annoying sentence I’ve ever seen out of you.

Bryan Chaffin

xmattingly, I added myself to the list. If I’m going to bag on all these chuckleheads, I have to bag on my own chuckleheadedness.

I was pretty hot about the way Steve killed cloning. smile

Steve Jobs is also on the list, so I do have some good company aside from from Paul Thurrot and Rob Enderle.


Vast majority (perhaps 95%) of today?s laptop buyers use them to surf web, access e-mail, music, YouTube, Facebook and manage pictures.

All of which has flash based content.

Bryan Chaffin

But I have so many patronizing sentences to choose from!

Seriously, though, there was nothing patronizing intended. I think that this (the sentence you quoted) is a fundamental issue preventing those who don’t get the iPad from doing so.


All of which has flash based content.

At the moment.
I am hoping, and I suspect that Apple is thinking along the same lines, that in 5 years Flash use will have declined dramatically. Both because HTML5 will be out and because the combined weight of iPhone-iPod-iPad will push developers away from Flash.

IMO it cannot come too soon.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Not patronizing at all Bryan. Sorry daemon, he’s sincere, though very optimistic. We can agree to disagree, yet at the same time, still disagree. Contrary to the beliefs of some (many? most?) here, I don’t come here to “troll”. I’ve always learned more by engaging customers, competitors, friends, enemies, partners, and associates than by watching them.

I think what we agree on is that this device is looking for a purpose. To me, it’s like Apple has shot Jell-O out of a shotgun. Sure to splatter on everything but not make a dent on anything either of us can imagine. I think the burden of proof then is on the proponents. Paint a picture of a real user and a real usage case that compels people to want one. Something beyond Colbert pulling it out of his jacket, flailing it around (as the screen quickly rotates landscape and portrait), and calling out other celebrities for not being as cool as him. Something beyond a frail Steve Jobs sitting on his couch reading the half of the New York Times that the iPad can display. grin. We will certainly all be relying on the adventurous early adopters to either find those real, compelling uses or confirm our suspicions that this thing is just plain useless. $500 is $500. Most people need to figure out why they need it and what they’ll do with it before dropping that kind of jack. What they’re finding out right now is what they won’t do with it, like run Flash, plug in USB drives, buy software from a party other than Apple, share web links on Twitter without quitting Safari and starting their favorite Twitter app, etc.

@vasic. Right. My Mom is the 0.01% of users that need to grab .pez files from their email. And your Mom is probably the 0.01% of users that need to do some particular thing she needs to do. And Bryan’s Mom the same thing. And them all up, and you’ve got 95% who do some weird thing that the iPad won’t do.

The most frustrating part about the iPad is that Apple could have made something we would all love because we could envision and understood what it would do for us, not have to contort ourselves into what Apple thinks we should do.


All of which has flash based content.

Well, not quite. For sure, not e-mail, not YouTube (there’s a separate pre-installed app for that), not music (iTunes is Flash-free), not FaceBook (unless third-party content is embedded, obviously…).

One must admit, though, that this quest of Apple’s regarding Flash is quite encouraging.

Flash has been the greatest convenience for web designers everywhere, and greatest scourge for web users, almost since its first appearance over a decade ago. It is so simple to create, any idiot can learn in a day to create an animated, interactive banner. Thus the massive piles of needless animated Flash junk littering the web.

97% of ALL Flash-based content today could be completely and faithfully replicated using non-Flash, open standard alternatives (AJAX, HTML5, etc). It does, however, require greater skill than picking up Flash CS4 and going through a few tutorials.

If Apple is successful with the iPad (which is virtually assured), the percentage of Flash-less browsers out there will significantly grow. Large web content operators will quickly notice the higher and higher numbers of visitors abandoning their Flash-based pages (no “conversions”, no click-throughs, not even eyeballs), which means no revenue. As soon as this number begins to hurt the bottom line, they will rapidly invest in redesign of content around the Flash obstacle. In the end, all of us will benefit. And who knows; perhaps Adobe might even transform Flash CS4 (or CS5, or 6) into a tool that would provide similar GUI for development of open-standard interactive content, and everyone will be happy.



You argue with great conviction, as well as respect for your opponents, which sets you apart from most other debaters in online forums. Therefore, it clearly doesn’t make any sense trying to convince you that I may be right, and you may be wrong. In the end, six months from now, we’ll know for sure (when Apple reports June quarterly earnings towards the end of July).

I’ll just add one thing. I know very many people (my wife, as well as most of my friends’ wives; my father-in-law, as most of my friends’ parents-in-law, or parents, for that matter, for those whose are still alive) who fit perfectly into the group of prospective buyers of this web appliance. Much like the old WebTV of late last century, this will be a computing device allowing technophobes a comfortable and reassuring internet experience. As I said, very many people out there buy cheap laptops (or even netbooks) only to do e-mail, web, music, pictures, etc. They approach their laptops with trepidation every time they want to use them, since every so often, something happens that they don’t understand. This little appliance “Just Works” (as Apple tend’s to say) in a true meaning of that expression.

Bryan Chaffin

I figured out you weren’t a troll years ago, Bosco, which is part of that respect thing. smile

So what kind of benchmark would you assign to the iPad for success/failure? If we can agree on terms, I’d be happy to make a public bet with you (I’m taking the over on success!).

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@geoduck… Someone repost this for him, because I think he’s blocked me. Here is an article (yes by Adobe) that talks about how a company (Zynga) with 70 million users of its most popular game (FarmVille) uses Flash as its delivery platform. There are many things that Flash does as a plugin, from implicit light-weight DRM to hardware accelerated graphics (on Windows platform) that are never going to happen with HTML5. These drive content availability, application maintenance and evolution, and performance. The numbers of end-users alone make it a no-win for Apple regardless of whether Apple is technically right. This turns perhaps justified confrontation into pointless bickering.

At the very least, if you’re going to take Apple’s position on Flash, acknowledge that it’s an irresolvable conundrum. You’ll then start to understand the vociferous criticism of the iPad and Apple’s approach to it.


I don’t think Adobe has to lose in order for Apple to win (to paraphrase Jobs from a decade or so ago about MS vs. Apple thing).

I believe we can all agree that Flash, in its current condition, has grown into a massive, fat, unwieldy beast that cripples performance and sucks down power, which wasn’t its initial goal.

When FutureSplash appeared in mid-90s, its primary purpose was to allow web content creators to create animated, interactive content that would preserve as much bandwidth as possible (everyone was on 28.8 dial-up at the time). The technology allowed vector-based objects to be displayed and animated using fairly little resources. Somewhere along the way (arguably, after Adobe bought Macromedia), Flash became this extremely complex runtime engine for all kinds of things, including 3D, inverse kinematics, with complex scripting language and extremely heavy demand on CPU.

If Apple’s effort results in reduction to non-Flash sites, then it might motivate Adobe to think about trimming those massive amounts of fat away from Flash and improving its performance. At some point, Apple then might consider allowing plug-ins to its mobile version of Safari.

As for FarmVille, I haven’t heard about it before (and I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife and all others I had mentioned previously hadn’t heard either). Admittedly, that’s beside the point here; the point is, Apple clearly defined its stand regarding Flash and, even though it may come across as a pissing contest, they just may provide enough influence here to force some changes, at least where these changes could easily be done.


On the topic of Flash, I have installed FlashBlock on my browser(s) several months ago. I have been surprised at how little functionality I had lost with the blocking of Flash. Vast majority of blocked Flash content is advertising. Very rarely do I have to click “Play” on the Flash icon of a web page. Obviously, “your mileage may vary” (My daughter would find web completely useless without Flash; she’s 9 and spends a lot of time at, but in general, of all the Flash content on the web, 90% is likely just useless (for end user, obviously; not for the advertiser…).


To be honest, I’ve never really gotten SJ’s position on Flash other than he just doesn’t like it. What I have noticed about Flash, at least as it is implemented by Zynga, is that it is an absolute DRAIN on battery life. Start up something like FarmVille and listen to the fans kick in and watch the battery meter head to the left. That may be one reason why it isn’t on the iPhone and currently isn’t planned for the iPad. Or because Steve thinks it just sucks. The former makes sense. The latter, well… hopefully cooler heads will prevail (it’s been known to happen). There is still time before the release for things to change, and it could always be addressed through a software update.

I don’t know yet if I will get a Pad. I travel a great deal, and it would make a good replacement for my Kindle (except for the battery life), and looks pretty good for video watching on a plane. Beats breaking out the laptop. As for other uses…who knows? Much like the iPhone, I think folks will find uses they never even thought of when the product was first released.

Lack of a camera is a “meh” for me. I’m not much of a video Skyper anyway (uses too much bandwidth for some of the places I go). Lack of Flash support is a bit annoying.


At $499, the iPad represents a cheap way for me to get my MacBook off my other half - who doesn’t use it to do anything that the iPad does not also do, and probably better - in the context of a device for casually browsing the web and Facebook while sat on the sofa.

For those of us who can afford it, that alone IS probably worth the asking price. We already have at least one computer. (The iPad presumes you have at least one computer).

And if $499 is a lot of money for a machine just to browse the web, what price do you think something like this will be in 5 years? At some point it’s going to be cheaper to produce a machine in this form factor than any form of laptop (less moving parts / points of mechanical failure).

As for lack of handwritten note support . . . there’s this thing called software.

working dog

I am a power user… I WORK all day on my 8 core mac pro and my MBP…
Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, FCP…. etc 3 displays… yada yada…
Away from my computers, I collect emails, read, browse, text and make calls on my iphone… brilliant, but sometimes tedious and annoying on the tiny screen.
I will buy an ipad so that I can read, browse, collect emails, watch movies, play games, explore 140,000 apps, maybe even write letters and do some basic work in iwork… in comfort, without constant zooming and scrolling - anywhere I like! For a few hundred bucks? Brilliant!
Fit me into a cliched, simplistic and tunnel-visioned demographic if you will.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Bryan. I’d say 1,000,000 units before March, 2011. That should be a no-brainer if you think Apple has even a mediocre product on its hand. Heck, I’d probably be paying up after the first weekend. But this would have to be subject to a back-out clause if Apple changes any of the deal-breakers before reaching 1,000,000 units. My list of deal-breakers:
* Not a Mac
* No Flash
* No USB
* App Store exclusive channel

I don’t know what the stakes should be. Maybe a snarky banner for a month? “Bosco was right.” If I lose, maybe I have to whip up the “Bryan Chaffin App” for iPhone and iPad.



I have a feeling you will indeed be “paying up”, perhaps not right after the first weekend, but after the first weekend 3G goes on sale. If the first month doesn’t move a million of them, the 3G version will push it over the number.

My general guess will be about 8 million for a full one year (end of March 2011). I’m not a betting man, so I won’t put up anything against it; it’s just my guess, so we’ll see next year how close I was.

Bryan Chaffin

I’ll spot you two million units by March of 2011, for three million total.  I’ll concede your outs, accept Flash - three million units by March of 2011 before the device becomes a Mac or adds USB or has any (authorized) developer channel other than the App Store.

As or the stakes, let’s keep it friendly. Some kind of public apology or admission (like I had with John Kheit (I lost that one!!).


For what it’s worth, we develop fairly mainstream web apps. We’re not a religious firm - for a lot of the 90s, our client software was Windows only, and then IE-only, then IE6-only and now you could say it is Flash-only.

i.e. we’re the sort of firm where it’s not cost effective to develop for the niche 5% of the market. 

On the other hand . . . our iPhone (aka mobile) version is straight HTML+SVG. Again, this is a pragmatic decision - when we made it, these things exist and worked on any of the smartphones we care about, while Flash 10 mobile didn’t even have a confirmed delivery date.

If Flash had existed on everything except the iPhone, the decision would have been the other way round (the iPhone would have been excluded).

Strategically, my concern is that Adobe are failing to keep up the pace. They were locked out of the iPhone, but not Android - if they really had a solution, they should have delivered along with the G1.

I also need to see Adobe deliver a version that is efficient. I’m hoping they do, because they must know that it’s a huge concern - and they have been working with ARM to optimise it - and I’d rather them deliver software than a campaign of FUD.

(Let’s face it, the only thing that will get a Flash plug-in onto the iPhone OS is an Android version that proves Apple’s objections to be lies).

But what I’m getting at is - we’re a mainstream firm, looking to lower our dependence on Flash - not because of the iPad, but for exactly the same reasons we stopped developing for IE6-only. You follow your customers (or more accurately, you skate to where your customers are going to be).

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bryan, Those terms are fine. On Flash, if Apple added it, there would be an end-run around the App Store via full screen Flash Apps, so that point is moof anyway. Flash isn’t going to happen.

JulesLt makes a great point about how developers see the web, i.e. pragmatically. There is another big source of Flash content, and that’s end users who publish from PowerPoint or Keynote or a myriad of other tools. One big advantage Flash has for these people is that it can be deployed as a single file. Most content management systems easily allow an attached file, such as a .swf to a blog posting or content entry. It’s easy for the CMS backend to tie those files in and display them in a web page.

I have a buddy who works at a medium sized state college. One problem he is always picking my brain on is creating Flash files from things, because the college and the students spend wheelbarrows of money on Camtasia to screen scrape and turn it into Flash. Profs and students then upload the Flash files into Blackboard, D2L, or Moodle systems.

Perhaps the biggest (and overlooked) advantage that Flash has over HTML5 is that Flash can be deployed as a single file. Until there is a standard way to package web site applications that both the server and client side work with seamlessly, user-generated Flash content will continue to grow. Web site developers are not the problem here. The problem is the rest of us.


On the topic of Flash, I have installed FlashBlock on my browser(s) several months ago.

Vasic, I found it odd that you still play flash. I mean, surely that 10% of useful flash content can’t be the only reason why you would even want it? I mean with 90% being so useless why even bother with the other 10%?


I mean with 90% being so useless why even bother with the other 10%?

Mostly out of sheer convenience. I’m not one of the major zealots on the issue of Flash. I do completely agree with Apple’s quest, and will be quite happy to see Flash ads disappear from the face of the planet, and all the Flash content and functionality out there that CAN be converted to non-Flash eventually get converted. However, at this point, I click on Flash when actually WANT to see that Flash content. More often than not, I don’t want to see any of the Flash blocks on any given web page, but on occasion, a page comes where I want to see the Flash stuff (YouTube is one of them). I am not ready to fight Apple’s fight that hard; selective Flash playback in my browsers is as far as I’m willing to go.

Bosco’s points are very strong, regarding the convenience of a single-file SWF delivery. There must be a way for creating and packaging non-Flash content in a way that is similar to the single Flash file. I’m hoping that the iPad might be the catalyst for a tectonic shift away from Flash, upon which some major authoring tool developer will seize the chance to create an authoring/packaging/delivery tool that will mimic most, if not all, of Flash’s advantages of today.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@vasic… Here’s an easy way to package an HTML app. Use HTML5’s built-in SQLite database. Define a simple schema for storing the files, and a URL scheme for accessing them. I could do it before morning coffee. Half the readers here could too. Nemo could even do it after a one day intro to relational databases for lawyers class. Problem solved.

But the bigger problem is the social problem of making it a standard. Get browser manufacturers for all size devices to support the protocol. Get packaging tools out there. Get content production tools that often have 2 or 3 year revision cycles to support it. If Obama can’t make health care reform happen, ain’t nobody gonna be able to get an industry to adopt a content delivery standard. It’ll just emerge if/when/how it does.


I like your SQLite idea - simple, elegant, effective! And I totally agree with your other point. That is why I hope that iPad sells very well, and that the sheer number of Flash-less browsers might get things in motion. Nothing sets standards as efficiently and as definitively as market forces do.

It may end up being a snowball. A modest uptick in Flash-less surfing motivates some very big players (NY Times, FaceBook, YouTube, etc.) to adopt a strategic policy of Flash-less content. New development solutions, technologies, best practices, as well as authoring tools quickly emerge to fill the need. As tools become available, so do those who want to use them. And as those iPad numbers grow, so do the number of those thinking: “Why don’t we look into this Flash-less development thing?”. In the end, I don’t expect Flash to get completely killed. Flash is so feature-rich (CS4 even provides tools for 3D animation and inverse kinematics!) and there will always be some situations where it’s the best (if not the only) solution. But vast majority of today’s Flash content doesn’t really need it for functionality. So, if the transition does begin, a lot of Flash content has a chance of becoming non-Flash.

The million dollar question is, how fast can something like this happen?


In the end, I don?t expect Flash to get completely killed.

After all there are still a fair number of IE-Only sites too.


“A modest uptick in Flash-less surfing motivates some very big players (NY Times, FaceBook, YouTube, etc.) to adopt a strategic policy of Flash-less content.”

An excellent point. It didn’t take a lot of change for us to shift from IE-only, to supporting Firefox and Safari, as their usage grew - i.e. it was only a shift of a few percentage points.

However . . . until IE catches up, that is going to mean more complicated development (things like SVG and video are easy enough to automatically fall back to Flash for IE, but there are other things where it will be a lot harder).

The one people keep bringing up - something like Farmville is certainly feasible in straight web technology on Webkit or Firefox - but imagine maintaining a version in Flash for IE + one for other browsers. If you can get away with just doing one, you will.

>There must be a way for creating and packaging non-Flash content in a >way that is similar to the single Flash file.
Yep. A single HTML file containing everything (CSS, JavaScript) inline, transmitted using gzip (i.e. compressed into a binary). It’s a technique recommended on iPhone apps.


They occasionally create a Word document and look at PowerPoint slide show. All of these can be done much more easily and intuitively on the iPad.

If the iPad can display a .PPS file as a slide show (timed progression, with embedded sound) - I’ll be impressed; -  because my iPhone doesn’t do that. I can only scroll thru all the slides.

working dog

your phone doesn’t have keynote


@working dog.  Keynote doesn’t play any embedded sound in .PPS files - or maybe I’m just not pressing the right buttons because it isn’t easy and intuitive.


Few more questions ;

Do the people against Flash because of advertising, look forward to ads implemented using web standards? Safari doesn’t provide an easy way to stop animated gifs, or anything animated via JavaScript & CSS 3.

Going back to the point about embedding Camtasia screenscrapes into CMS systems - I guess that is mostly ‘Flash as video format’ and will be eventually solved by tooling (transparent delivery of plain video or Flash video from the back end as underlying video format is compatible and improvements to the JavaScript embedding code to get either the video or SWF content).

But . . . we’re a reasonably IT literate firm, and I happened to be walking through an office where someone was complaining that the video capture they had done of their app was very choppy played back from the website.

My immediate thought was to check what type of Flash video they were using, and eventually found they were using a 5 year old version of Camtasia that doesn’t support H264 Flash video - ironically, they’d have been better uploading raw video to YouTube and letting YouTube do it. A ?99 upgrade did the job, but I don’t expect most people even know the difference between Flash video codecs - it’s just ‘Flash video’ like ‘Quicktime’ or ‘Windows Media’.

Dean Lewis

I’m mainly against Flash for ads when they crash my browser. I won’t mind ads using web standards if they remain unobtrusive and do not crash my browser. Sites are perfectly within their rights to put ads up in order to pay for all of this info I’m getting for free, and I do even occasionally click on them if I happen to be looking for something and one of them fits the bill.

I’ve installed Click2Flash in order to stop the crashes, but I do feel a bit bad about it since these places have to pay the bills. I feel less bad about blocking pop-ups since some legit ones still come through, and the majority of the bad ones cascade all over or pop up where I am trying to read or write. I’ve stopped going to sites for that kind of stuff.

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