On Flash Web Applications

Macworld‘s latest issue included an article on HTML5. While I like most of the article, one paragraph is simply absurd. Here it is, in all its lunacy:

[Apple’s] business incentive to protect its App Store ecosystem is strong. After all, Flash creates rich Web applications that could threaten App Store sales if developers marketed their apps independently. Today, Apple gets 30 percent of every paid app, game, magazine, and purchase from its store—a hefty chunk of cash derived in part from its Flash ban.

Yeah, right.

Let’s look at it step-by-step:

  1. Apple has said it only breaks even on the App Store, due to maintenance costs such as bandwidth and administration. This may not be strictly true, but we do know for sure that the App Store’s main profit for Apple comes from its promotion of iOS devices. In other words, Apple makes money from the Store because people buy iPhones. If Flash could really compete with the App Store, as Macworld idiotically claims, it would increase iPhone sales greatly. The benefit for Apple would far outweigh the loss.
  2. How many people would really switch from the App Store to Flash web apps? Many seem to have forgotten that, back in 2007, Apple heavily promoted web apps to appease users asking for native apps. This completely failed to catch on, in drastic contrast to the App Store’s later success. I know I wouldn’t switch from native apps to the browser-based ones, even if they were just as good, and what about people who aren’t geek-blog writers?
  3. As the article says, Apple gets a cut of every paid app’s sales. The developers take the majority. So if this shift occurred, and would hurt Apple, would it not hurt the developers far more? They’d go from making a handsome profit to giving away their products. Why? Because they’re philosophically opposed to the “closed” nature of the App Store? Not likely.
  4. Even if Flash could create “rich web applications” (hint: Flash apps suck), how would it run on an iPhone, especially an older one? A Flash application as rich as a native one would be more complex than almost anything on the web today, and plenty of Flash apps on the web today suffer from huge performance issues. Could Flash really equal the stable, robust code of a native app?
  5. How many great developers would start making these apps? Those who work in Flash today are generally not the passionate, hardworking developers that filled the iPhone with great applications. Would these developers, comfortable in the App Store, go ecstatic when Flash becomes available and immediately start making iOS Flash apps? Would they ever? Probably not.

I’m not sure of Apple’s true reasons for keeping Flash off the iPhone. I think they believe, absolutely correctly, that it’s bad for the web and is on the way out. However, they probably have some reasons as a business for taking such a strong stance. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that their reasons are not what Macworld suggested.

The Toshiba Tablet

Toshiba has joined the race of vaporware tablets. The so-called “Toshiba Tablet” has been announced, and is promoted by a sucky Flash-based site. Visit the site on your iOS device, and up pops this message:

Go to thetoshibatablet.com/mobile, however, and you get a totally Flash-free site. It works great on my iPod. Check out the screenshot:

And you know what? The non-Flash site is far better-designed. No stupid animations, no long loading times, just links that work. That’s what the Web should be like, and that’s why Flash should stay out of iOS.

Most Addicting Apps of the Week (MAAW)

Every week we will try to bring you our most addicting applications of that week. Most will be games, though some might be other kinds of apps. Warning! These app are very addicting! If you have anything that must be completed DO NOT download these apps! Geeks Rule is not responsible for any work you don’t complete! Although, if you have nothing better to do, then have at ’em!

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iOS’s Future

According to recently-released data, Google’s Android is passing the iPhone in market share. This same happening has been reported at least three times so far. Some (well, lots) predict this will lead to iOS’s demise. Many are chanting that history will repeat itself, with Windows’s victory over Mac OS about to occur again. The problems with this thinking, though, are myriad. I will try to explain a few.

First of all, Android has only recently surpassed the iPhone. This might seem surprising, considering that many different hardware companies make Android-compatible devices, including Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG, Acer, Sony Ericsson, and so on. In over two years, this consortium has only just recently (even if the data presents the whole picture) passed a single phone (in two models) from a single company, running on a single carrier. Good for them!

UPDATE: John Gruber today wrote, “More and more, I’m convinced that Android isn’t a single platform. It’s a meta-platform upon which handset makers build their own platforms.” In this context, it seems even more absurd to claim that Apple is “falling behind.” No one ever said (well, OK, Paul Thurrott might have) that the iPhone was failing because it had less market share than RIM, Palm, and Nokia combined.

Next, the argument that this means Android will kill iOS in the long term starts to fall apart when one considers the carriers. Swarms of customers have been waiting for a Verizon iPhone since launch (or before). This is one of Android’s greatest advantages, and it may soon disappear. As John Gruber pointed out, the picture is quite different in Europe, where the iPhone is available on multiple carriers. If the iPhone is coming to Verizon, as many speculate, this is all going to change.

A few years ago, many people claimed the same thing would happen to the iPod and iTunes. The “history repeats itself” whiners were present back then. But, it didn’t happen. The iPod remains the most popular music player in the world by a huge margin, and iTunes is the world’s most popular music store and growing fast. And it doesn’t look like this demise is going to happen soon. So clearly, history doesn’t always repeat itself. In fact, it can turn right around.

One of the arguments on the “iOS will die” side is that developers go where the users are, which will be Android. This argument, though, is the most flawed of them all. Of course, developers are important. But what really matters is great developers. Windows has more developers than Mac, but many people buy Macs because independent software makers, who really care about creating great applications, are tremendously more abundant on that platform. (Yes, I know, PC users don’t care that much. A lot of people buy Windows because of the amount of software for it. But after the iPhone, I believe smartphone users will care about quality.) Corporations creating boring, horrible utility software, and tiny companies trying to make money off pointless apps, have been around for years on platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile. Those platforms are being buried. What made the App Store such a phenomenal success were apps like Instapaper, Tweetie, Rolando, Brushes, and Flight Control. Some of that kind of app are available for Android. Many aren’t.

This argument breaks down completely when you realize that only iPhone units were measured, not total iOS devices. Sure, some say that this is just about the smartphone market. But if what matters is developers, and developers are attracted by users (as these people say), iPod touch users are identical to those of the iPhone. Even the iPad, though apps have to be rewritten for it, is part of the same market. Developers don’t care how many smartphone users are available, but how many users who will buy their apps. And in that respect, Apple has the advantage.

To put it another way, Android apps don’t seem to me to be catching on. I’m not very interested in Android, and read mainly about Apple. However, I am definitely a technology geek. And I very rarely hear about any Android apps. Many, many people who don’t know what open-source software is, how to write an if statement, or why force-quitting is useful heard about iPhone apps. “There’s an app for that” has gone viral. Apple’s developer success on the iPhone doesn’t seem to have been replicated on Android so far.

The arguments about the demise of Apple’s devices break down on close inspection. They forgot the carriers, they forgot iTunes, they forgot about quality apps, they forgot the iPod touch. So, as I see it, iOS’s future is secure.

iOS 4.2 Perhaps to Be Released in Seven Days!

When syncing my iPad today, I noticed that the next automatic iOS software update check was 11/16/10, seven days from today.

iOS possibly coming 11/16/10

Given that iOS 4.2 is scheduled for this month, I think this seems a likely date. However, it is a Tuesday, and a Tuesday just doesn’t seem like a good day for a launch, maybe a Saturday would be better. (Slightly changed quote from Despicable Me intended.) I am guessing (and hoping) that it will be released then, but I certainly can give no guarantees. What with GameCenter, Multitasking, Wireless Printing, Folders, and more, this will be an exciting next week or two. I can’t wait to try it out.

Widgets in iOS

For years, rumors have persisted that Apple will add widgets to iOS. What are widgets, exactly? They’re mini-apps, providing at-a-glance information. Many smartphone operating systems include them, but not Apple’s, so far. There has been much discussion over the manner in which the feature should be implemented. Here is my suggestion.

Some have speculated that widgets would be available in the lock screen. This, however, would mean that no apps could be launched from the widgets screen, without having to unlock the phone first. The only logical other place would be to the left of the home screen (they could also reside in their own app, but that seems inelegant). Spotlight currently occupies that position, but it could be easily integrated into the widgets system: a search bar at the top of the widgets screen (similar to those of Mail, Notes, and so on, but always visible) launches a Spotlight search.

The widgets screen may be centered around app icons. Included could be the Calendar icon (which auto-updates with the current day of the week and month), and similarly auto-updating Clock and Weather icons. A tap on any of these would launch the respective app. The four-app Dock remains visible on the bottom of the screen. The widgets area (in between the Dock and Spotlight bar) could be scrollable, or there could be multiple screens, to allow for more widgets.

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Opinion: Mac App Store should Leave Games Alone

The Mac’s recently-announced App Store has been causing a stir among Mac users and geeks in general. For the first time, a managed, curated application store will be the most common way to discover and download apps on a desktop platform. Developers and users are excited about the Store’s possibilities. However, I believe that the store should focus on productivity and utility apps, instead of games. This will benefit both developers and the Store itself.

Including games in the iOS App Store has worked well. However, before its introduction, no method of obtaining games existed. On the Mac, there are plenty. Perhaps the most important is through distributors such as Steam, which launched on OS X earlier this year. Apple reportedly worked with Valve, Steam’s developer, to port the store, and was rewarded with dozens of game releases new to the platform. Attempting to replace Steam would seem an affront not only to Valve, but to game developers also.

Non-entertainment apps would thrive if given the spotlight in the Mac App Store. In the iOS store, games take up a large part of Apple’s and others’ publicity, keeping more productivity/utility software in the dark. On the Mac, these apps are more capable and important. Giving them more publicity in the Store would both help developers of non-game software, and users, who can find more of these practical apps.

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To Comment, or Not to Comment?

    Recently, John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog has been criticized for not supporting comments, and the author has defended his position. His opponents say that comments are fair to those who disagree, and helpful to readers. Gruber responds that comments are “just noise,” and add nothing to the site. I believe his stance is correct, at least regarding his personal blog.

    Gruber and his opponents are often involved in debates, they attacking Apple and he defending. Some have challenged him as not acting fairly in these debates by not allowing comments. Gruber, however, says that responding to an argument should take place on one’s own site. This seems sensible to me. Why would someone involved in a real debate respond to his opponent from the latter’s audience? Daring Fireball is Gruber’s personal site for his own views, just like a speech in real life. Other people’s views go on their own sites.

    In the case of sites like these, comments are as useless as giving an audience the ability to shout out endlessly after a talk. If they agree, they’re superfluous; if they disagree, they do nothing but challenge the argument. Disagreement is fine, but it should be posted elsewhere. No one takes opinionated comments seriously; all they do is take up space and take away from the site’s simplicity. As Gruber stated, “they’re just noise.”

    Finally, people often post stupid comments. If someone disagrees with an article, they’ll more than likely post a disagreeable comment, that usually contains nothing rational or useful. If someone posts only on their own site, they have to think it over first, which weeds out most (if not all) senseless posts.

    If comments are so bad, why does Geeks Rule have them? Well, we aren’t a site like Daring Fireball, a personal site for one man’s views. We want to encourage discussion and inform other geeks. So our comments are for questions, remarks, and extra information: something to add, not take away.