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Strike One Against iPad Competitors

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When Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) introduced the iPad in January 2010, it made a controversial decision not to support Adobe Systems' (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash software. At the time, Adobe said Flash supported almost 75% of Web videos -- including YouTube -- and 70% of online gaming sites.

It was a gutsy move for Apple. As an alternative, Apple looked to a new technology, HTML5, to display Internet videos and graphics on its iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  Only about 10% of Web videos could be played with HTML5 when the iPad was first announced.  Apple explained its decision by criticizing Flash's speed, battery consumption -- an especially important feature for mobile devices -- and vulnerability to malware such as viruses.

Flash Android to the rescue?
Flash was an obvious potential differentiator for wannabe competitors to the iPad. That wasn't lost on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , which promotes its free Android operating system to smartphone makers. Android runs Flash. It also runs on tablets, with Google recently releasing an optimized version named Honeycomb.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab, an early iPad competitor, runs Android … and, therefore, Flash. Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI  ) much-anticipated Xoom tablet, which became available in late February and runs Google's new Honeycomb update, runs Android and is Flash "compatible." That said, Xoom won't run Flash until its software is updated this spring.

Flash isn't limited to Android tablets. Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook tablet, rumored to be available for purchase in late March or early April, will run Flash. So will Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) webOS tablet, which is scheduled to be available "in the summer." 

Outvoted, but not outmaneuvered
With tablet competition heating up and major competitors lining up behind Flash, it seems Apple was outvoted. But it wasn't outmaneuvered. By February of this year, about 63% of Web videos could be played using HTML5. That compares with 10% in January 2010. Apparently, websites see power in the Apple platform.

Even Adobe seems to be making concessions. Recently, the company released a new tool that converts Flash files to HTML5 so they can run across Apple mobile devices.

Foolish takeaway
The tablet wars are just heating up, with the second-generation iPad launching as many competitors are introducing their first-generation tablets. The rapid adoption of HTML5 suggests that one feature many tablet makers hoped would help them compete -- the ability to play Flash -- isn't going to be a differentiator. Gentlemen, start your tablets!

Looking to keep tabs on the major players in the tablet wars? Add any of the above companies to our free watchlist service, My Watchlist.

If you know an iPad in need of a loving home, please contact Fool contributor Cindy Johnson. First generation is fine. She currently owns no shares in any of the companies in this story.

Google is a recommendation of Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Apple and Adobe Systems are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool has written puts on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on Apple and a diagonal call position on Adobe Systems. The Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 12:40 PM, arnhol2 wrote:

    Get your facts right.Motorola gets Flash this week.Which Apple Rep came to you with a free Ipad for a fovorable article.Fact is, that Apple has been passing them out for the same other places.

    Try the CNBC press room.

    Tha new 1.5 (not really a 2) isn't much different then #1.

    still 3g and the camera is cheap and disgusting.

    Read other reviews.

    You've been duped into the hype.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 12:53 PM, techy46 wrote:

    All tablets are for executives, grandparent, kids, marketing and talking head types. If you have a 550hp watch you gotta have a matching 600hp pad. That's great it keeps the economy going and investing profitable. How fast do birds fly and videos play on an A5?

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 2:09 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:


    Get your facts right.

    Xoom gets a Flash Beta this week.

    Not Flash. Just a Beta.

    Considering how buggy Flash usually is, how many people are going to want to load a Beta?

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 2:20 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    Who needs Flash? The advertising industry.

    Googles customers are the advertisers, not you. Google want you to have Flash so as to give always active, power hungry adverts to the advertisers, at your expense in CPU and battery.

    Adobe want you to have Flash because their customers are the advert creators who create the always active ads that eat your battery.

    It doesn't matter how much video is Flash. Only how much is Flash only. And the answer is very little, and almost all of it is advertisements.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 2:34 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    @curlyhead46 said

    "AAPL ... Stock fully reflects it. perfectly priced. ... Just one slip and aapl could retrace fast."

    Anyone with half a brain can see the contradiction in that.

    Early next week MMI and RIM are going to be hit hard as sales numbers for the iPad 2 are assimilated and it becomes clear that MMI and RIM have to go back to the drawing board. Samsung had the honesty to say as much as soon as the iPad 2 was announced.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 2:57 PM, skippywonder wrote:

    "The iToy is for kids and grandparents, while the Playbook is for intelligent people."

    The Playbook is for patient people. Very patient people. I have been hearing great things about the Playbook for months, but the reality is it is still not available. When folks can actually buy one, the argument about what it can do and who it's for will make more sense. Right now it is still speculation. It has been tiring hearing "next month", "next month", "next month", but maybe eventually it will come to market. Until then the Playbook is for folks who are willing to wait.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 3:14 PM, fatmonk wrote:

    one of the main reason AAPL does not support FLASH beside the battery issue is depending on third FLASH update cycle.

    if AAPL supported flash, ADOBE will release the update for whoever has largest market share first and Flash developer would do in the same way(Currently Android has larger market share).

    That would harm AAPL more than AAPL does not support FLASH.

    AAPL does not want to kill flash(it is not AAPL business), it just does not support third party plug in runtime engine for it iOS. by not supporting third party runtime engine, iOS is getting lighter and development cycle is faster.

    Microsoft could go after Android for silverlight plugin that would create a challenging for Google;

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 5:19 PM, makelvin wrote:


    Chill man, it is more obvious that you are the one that is bias here. Apple like to focus on improving features that people care about like faster performance, lighter weight, thinner design, long battery life and solid user experience. You on the other hand prefer 4G and Adobe Flash over battery life.

    If you consider iPad 2 is really 1.5, I guess it better than getting a Motorola Xoom 0.5b considering it is actually been sold without the Flash compatibility as they had promised originally and the unit needs to be shipped back in order to upgrade into the 4G feature that you so desired. The Xoom might have a high res camera, but it can even take a video without hiccups as soon as you have any type of movements in shot. The Android apps frequently crashes on it. The whole product is clearly not even ready to be shipped and yet people like you are willing to pay top money for an incomplete, unfinished tablet and then go complaining about other people's choices. Get a life...

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 6:03 PM, xmmj wrote:

    Note as well:

    "Adobe Flash Is Doomed, Says Firefox VP"


    To say Mozilla's Jay Sullivan has an opinion about Adobe Flash would be an understatement.

    As the company's VP of products, Sullivan is as aware as anyone about Flash's toll on Firefox. Prior to the browser's implementation of crash protection last June, Flash was responsible for more crashes than any other plug-in, according to Computerworld...

    Today, Sullivan has adopted Apple's stance on Flash -- decidedly con. He maintains that HTML5 will be the future of multimedia content, as more developers begin migrating to the platform. Freeing both designers and users from what Sullivan calls "plug-in prison,"


  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 6:06 PM, xmmj wrote:

    As for the silly little children who make ridiculous comments such as "iPad v1.5"

    A real analysis of the technical aspects of the upgrade:


    Inside Apple's iPad 2 A5: fast LPDDR2 RAM, costs 66% more than Tegra 2

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 6:31 PM, IraLA wrote:

    Androidians may want to reflect upon the words of Walter S. Mossberg in his review of the new iPad:

    "It never crashed in my tests, unlike every Android tablet I’ve tested."

    Yes, really. See the quote and its link:

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 6:34 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    Cindy - If IE9 offered technology that blocked a third of the videos on the web, I'm sure you would also cover it as a savvy move by Microsoft, right?

    No one is ever going to convince the 10% of the market devoted to Apple products that they are faulted in any way. But for the rest of the world, missing a third of video content (and from all the empty boxes I see on my iPhone I'm really skeptical of the HTML5 saturation rate claimed in the article) is kind of a big deal.

    So is price. Have any of you Apple fanboys stopped to contemplate how the $500 iPad is going to do against Android tablets that will cost a couple hundred dollars less?

    Apple lost the lead in smart phones to Android even though carrier subsidies give the iPhone price parity with the most current Android devices. Android tablets are where the first generation of Android phones were 18 months ago, but you're fooling yourself if you think the Xoom or Galaxy represent the last word in Android tablets. They're not even the last word for the first half of 2011.

    Nine months from now we'll be in the Christmas season and I guarantee we'll have Android tablets that are as good against the iPad as the better Android handsets are against the iPhone, and they'll cost ~$200 less.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 7:30 PM, btblomberg67 wrote:

    baldheadeddork - IE9 is finally getting into the real world of web standards. IE 6, 7 and 8 all have long histories for ignoring web standards, each new version less so. So I find your comparison hilarious and ill conceived.

    I also find it funny that so many people defend Flash as it has been a horrible piece of tech since the beginning. It only took off as there were no real alternatives. This allowed Adobe to sit on it for years and not really upgrade it and fix it. The introduction of iOS has done more for Abode working on fixing Flash than anything in it's history. Truth is even with all their optimization (An yes it needs to be optimized for each CPU and GPU) it is still a hog on mobile. It is at least a lot better on desktop now, so credit goes to them.

    As for cheaper tables, there are none. Well unless you want to buy from some no name company from asia that will not support their product. If you want that experience I feel sorry for you. But it's your waste of money. On and off specs that market can't compete on quality AND price with the iPad. You can dream otherwise, but it would be just that, a dream.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 7:34 PM, btblomberg67 wrote:

    Also, Android phone took off in the US because of the iPhone void on other carries than AT&T, so we will see how that goes when the iPhone 5 is released on 2 or more carriers in the US. Then there were those two for one deals that android phones where getting. Apple doesn't need to play that game, they just need to be able to make more iPhone and their only limit tend to be their production levels.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 8:37 PM, AQCon wrote:

    "Nine months from now we'll be in the Christmas season and I guarantee we'll have Android tablets that are as good against the iPad as the better Android handsets are against the iPhone, and they'll cost ~$200 less"


    they may be better (giggle), but they won't be cheaper AND better as apple priced A ipad's with incredibly competitively and THEY BOUGHT UP ALL OF THE COMPONENTS at a huge discount with some of the 60 BILLION in cash it has laying around.

    no, the competition can only be CHEAPER and crappy (so NO competition for the ipad) OR more features/better specs (stuff that only a small amount of nerds care about so they can say "my tablet can play songs AND allow me to do finite element analysis on the space shuttle o-ring, CAN YOURS?") for more money which again, is NO competition for the ipad.

    sorry, chickee, your arguments are laughable.

  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2011, at 8:34 AM, Aespiller2014 wrote:

    why are you doing this

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