Apple is missing the small picture

I’ve previously discussed the fight between Apple and Adobe about Flash (e.g. here), but I had a realization that I think is important.  What I was talking about before was the potential to create a market place beyond text, graphics, and media, and to start capitalizing on learning interactivity. What was needed was a cross-platform capability.

Which Apple is blocking, for interactivity.

Apple allows cross-platform media players, whether hyperdocs (c.f. Outstart, Hot Lava, and Hybrid Learning) and media (e.g. video and audio formats are playable). What they’re not is cross-platform for interactivity.

Now, I understand that Apple’s rabidly focused on the customer experience (I like the usability), and limiting development to content is a way to essentially guarantee a vibrant experience.  And I don’t care a fig about the claims about ‘openness’, which in both cases are merely a distraction.  Frankly, I haven’t missed Flash on my iPhone or iPad.  I hardly miss it on my browser (I have a Firefox extension that blocks it unless I explicitly open them, and I rarely use it; and I browse a lot)!

What I care about is that, by not supporting cross-platform programs that output code for different operating systems (OS), Apple is hurting a significant portion of the market.

I came to this thought from thinking about how companies should want to go beyond media to the next level. There will be situations where navigable content isn’t enough, and a company will want to provide interactivity, whether it’s a dynamic user order configuration tool, a diagnostic tool, or a learning simulation.  There are times when content or a web-form just won’t cut it.

Big companies can probably afford dedicated programming to make these apps come to life on more than one platform: Windows Mobile, WebOS, Blackberry OS, Android, and iPhone OS (they need a name for their mobile OS now that the iPad’s around: MacOSMobile?), but others won’t.

What are small to medium sized companies supposed to do? They’d like to support their mobile workers with smartphones regardless of OS, but when they’re that 1-few person shop, they aren’t going to have the development resources.  They might have a great idea for an app, and they probably have or can get a Flash programmer, but won’t have the capabilities to develop separately across platform. And no one’s convinced me that HTML 5 is going to bring the capability to even build Quest, let alone a training game with characteristics like Tips on Tap.

Worse, how about not-for-profits, or the education sector?  How are these small organizations, with limited budgets, supposed to expand the markets?  How can anyone develop an ability to transcend the current stranglehold of publishers on learning content?

Yes, the cross-platform developer might not carry the latest and greatest features of the OS forward, but they’re meeting real needs.  There are the ‘for market’ applications, and the pure content plays, but there’s a middle ground that is going to increasingly comprehend the potential, but be shut out of the opportunity because they can’t develop a meaningful solution for their limited market that just needs capability, not polish.

I get that Flash isn’t efficient.  I note that neither Adobe or Apple talk about their software development practices, so I don’t know whether either use some of the more trusted methods of good code development like agile programming, PSP & TSP, or refactoring, but I think that doesn’t matter.  While I think in the long run it would be to their advantage, I think that even a slow and even slightly buggy version of a needed app would be better received and more useful than none.

I don’t have the email address to lob this at Steve directly like some have, but I’d like to see if he can comprehend and address the issue for the people caught in the situation where delivering interactivity could mean anything from more small-to-medium enterprise success, to meeting a real need in the community, to lifting our children to a higher learning plane, but they don’t have much in the way of resources.

Quite simply, a cross-platform interactivity solution really doesn’t undermine the Apple experience (look at the Mac environment), as it’s likely to be a small market. Heck, brand it as a 2nd Class app or something, but don’t leave out those who might have a real need for an easy cross platform capability.

I’m curious: do you think that the ability to go beyond navigable content to interactivity in a cross-platform way could be useful to a serious amount of people in a lot of little different pockets of activity?

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