The Little Blue Icon

My colleague at work happened to notice that iPad is an anagram of paid! Whereas, the rest of the world simply felt that Apple was launching a new feminine hygiene product. Whatever. It’s a stupid name. (I have an IBM Thinkpad as my computer of choice. I never ever think, I’ll use my Thinkpad to do some work. It’s my laptop – however rarely it’s on my lap).

We, as online marketers immediately have to start thinking about how to infiltrate/penetrate this new Apple device to get our marketing messages across. We’ve been thinking about it since possibly the worst kept secret in iHistory came to our attention. So nobody was really surprised when Steve Jobs presented his new baby to the world.

Actually, that’s not true. In the world of online marketing something so important was missing from the shiny new iPad. As Steve Jobs whisked his fingers across the screen, at one point, a little blue icon could be seen on the screen. The icon that says you don’t have Flash installed. And Web marketers gasped: “It’s like the iPhone and iPod Touch. The Safari browser still won’t accept the Flash plug-in. Yikes!”

What can this mean? Well it means that all of those beautiful rich media ads and videos we create in Adobe Flash are still banished from the Apple Kingdom of i.

And as we ponder whether the iPad is also the savior of the publishing industry with its Kindle-like reader, we also have to ponder whether we’ll ever be able to see an advertisement in our daily read. There’s bound to be a workaround with a developer kit. And there’s also the shiny, new HTML 5 at our disposal.

But hold on a minute. What we’re exhausting our brains over is actually a browser/HTML/HTTP issue isn’t it?

Some time ago, in a paper I wrote about new signals to search engines, I covered the history of hypertext thinking and the development of the HTTP/HTML platform. And I quoted a senior research scientist from Google who said something along the lines of, as we move from this so-called 2.0 Web of content to a Web of applications…And that started me looking into the development of Google’s Chrome browser into an operating system (once again, think apps).

I own an iPhone. And like most others who do, mine is totally loaded up with apps. And generally they’re all so useful, I rarely need to open the Safari browser. The iPad will run over 140,000 apps from day one. With that amount of content available for your device, plus your Kindle-like reader, maybe the browser is the last thing you stick your finger out for. It’s kind of like when I watch my kids with their iPhones. I’m sure they know you can actually put it up against your ear and say “hello” but I don’t remember seeing them do it. It’s the last thing they use it for.

These devices are built for a future where apps rule. The World Wide Web has served us well. But in the connected world in which we live in, it’s just another channel. A great place to get content from and repurpose for the future, possibly.

So, as a marketer, I’m not going to worry too much about the little blue icon at this time. Flash is actually alien to the browser. It doesn’t belong there. Pull it out onto your desktop and see it work. It would actually make a great platform on its own. Imagine “the Flash Web.” Now there’s a good idea for the Internet. And how often would you have to open a browser then?

The column was originally published on Jan. 29, 2010.

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