Virgin America Kills Flash as a Result of Apple/Adobe Conflict

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It’s probably not the first site to eschew Flash in favor of greater compatibility with Apple’s portable devices, but it’s one that’s definitely big enough to make waves. Virgin America has launched a new, Flash-free website with the stated intent of reaching more customers on Apple’s devices, where Adobe’s rich web content application is not welcome.

Honestly, I think this is only the beginning of a new tide that will see corporations retreating away from either Adobe’s or Microsoft’s proprietary solutions for displaying animations and other advanced media elements in their websites. When the goal is to reach as many customers as possible, it only makes sense to take into account the limitations of some platforms. Flash may run on many portable non-Apple devices, but that doesn’t mean it does it well.

As reported by the Register, the decision to go with only HTML is about inclusion, even though the move by Apple that preceded it is all about exclusion:

Virgin picked HTML to give users of iPhones and other mobiles the option in the future of checking in through their phone. The battle between Adobe and Apple has seen Flash deliberately excluded from the Jesus Phone.

Virgin’s new site is designed to let users check-in using their mobiles, using a system that issues electronic boarding passes you’ll be able to show to airport security staff. The plan is awaiting approval by the U.S. Transportation Security Authority. The site is responsible for 70 percent of Virgin’s $100 million quarterly revenue. Right now it’s advanced enough to suit the company’s needs, but Virgin does anticipate making the jump to HTML5 once it’s cleared by the W3C.

Virgin America’s Chief Information Officer Ravi Simhambhatia added, in defense of the decision, that “[t]his year is going to be the year of the mobile [for Virgin].” The sentiment echoes Steve Jobs’ recent declaration that Apple is now a mobile device company first and foremost. There’s just no denying that if companies want to be taken seriously on the mobile scene, they need to take into account, if not focus on Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch, and the upcoming iPad.

The message is clear: Apple can succeed at stonewalling Adobe. The iPhone has been a massive success despite a lack of Flash support, and the iPad is poised to do the same when it launches late this month. Magazine companies aren’t happy about having to choose, but let’s be honest, print publications and their online components hardly hold the industry sway that they did 10 years ago. The death of Flash is coming, and Virgin is only the first harbinger of said death.

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