Why Apple hates Flash and the Droid has a search key

Apple and Google have something in common: They are both furiously trying to protect their content ecosystems. Apple launched the iPad yesterday with no Flash support — meaning the majority of video on the web won’t work on the tablet device, including clips from Hulu.com. (Word is the New York Times demo had a frozen pane for video in the iPad launch presentation, not a pretty sight.) This is not a design oversight; Apple obviously wants you to watch video by downloading it (and paying for it) from iTunes. Apple is telling Adobe, which controls Flash and thus the majority of online video, it’s game on.

Google, as the above ad demonstrates, takes another tact. Mobile phones are filled with handy apps that allow you to get online with a single tap — and oh yes, by the way, pass Google. Who needs to search on mobile with a search engine when a restaurant, news, sports or map icon gets you to web-based information instantly? If anything, the emergence of new tablet devices could make app onramps to the Internet even more popular. So Google has invested in a phone OS and hardware design which notably has a hot key that launches a Google search browser. Then, to educate the public, Google is running full-page ads in Wired magazine trying to convince you that searching via Google on a cell phone is just as important as doing so on a PC screen.

Apple wants you to buy its videos. Google wants you to use its search engine. And you’re learning entirely new devices — smart phones and tablets and soon other task-specific Internet-wired gadgets — that may lead you in entirely new directions. It’s fun to see the current big players in technology so worried as consumers shift their media habits once again. Wonder if old habits will stick.

4 thoughts on “Why Apple hates Flash and the Droid has a search key

  1. Why is search volume up year on year? You’ve been naysaying forever, but nothing shows people searching less. It’s always more.

    Which begs the question: Is Google responding to threats or is it aggressively staking out new territory? The data suggest the latter.

  2. Bud,

    Yes, search works, and yes total search volumes are up year over year. What I am suggesting is PC-based search is a maturing market, ad dollars are plateauing there, and mobile-based devices are the future — where search will be more problematic.

    Google is smart to push ahead in controlling a mobile OS where it can make its search doorway very visible. It has to, to survive. Businesses don’t thrive by looking at last year’s numbers but by charting a new course for the waters ahead.

    I do think Google will have difficulty maintaining a huge share of consumer usage within the portable media category. There are many emerging competitors and market entrants, apps being the new channel. I also suspect that within the total search numbers on PCs, problems are emerging, especially in the advertising portion which is the revenue lifeblood of Google. Consumers are finding new ways to find things online, and with every new option, search ad dollars become more problematic.

    My prediction: Search will always be here, but it will reset at a lower level — just as radio and TV networks and newspapers and marquee web sites have done before it.

  3. Ben, I’d summarize it like this. Apple is essentially selling repackaged web. That’s been their lead with both the iphone and now the ipad. Watch the ipad promo video from earlier in the week for evidence of that. The web is the lead application area they promote.

    On the side, apple has developed three media stores: entertainment (itunes), apps, and books. Your point is that people are getting sucked into apps and forgetting the web. That seems like a question we could answer with data. July 2009 AdMob data tell us that people report downloading roughly 10 apps per month but only pay for a little more than one of them. Paid app sales are reported to result to a very large extent from upgrades to free apps.

    OK, this does not directly answer the question, but it suggests to me that people are largely dissatisfied with the apps they download. What do they do when they when they want to find locations, another hot item in the ipad video, currently they use maps, a Google powered product. What do they do when they want information, they search Google. More than 50% of iphone web traffic is to Google.

    You’re right. Google is competing in a new space, but it is more from a position of dominance.

  4. I’d agree. It is important to watch the tide shift, though. The data I’ve seen says 50% of mobile web usage is app-based vs. browser based — a huge shift.

    On regular PCs, 25% of all searches going through Google are video searches really coming into YouTube.

    Consumers are moving to smaller devices with more interest in single-point applications and video. All of this is a major shift in modality. You’re right, Google is dominant, but they need to watch new trends in consumer use carefully.

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