Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Open-Source Fanboys Rejoice: Big Corporation Dumps Flash from its Website

Finally it's not just Apple, Google, or pro-open technology Web site authors who are drumming to a different beat when it comes to using Flash. The Register has reported today that Virgin American airline has decided to avoid using Flash on its website.

Justifiying his iconoclatic stance, chief information officer (CIO) Ravi Simhambhatla told The Register "I don't want to cater to one hardware or one software platform one way to another, and Flash eliminates iPhone users. This year is going to be the year of the mobile [for Virgin]."

Ravi goes on to explain that once the standard is ratified, the Virgin American airline website will also move to HTML5. I'll bet that statement brought a lot of smiles to some folks at Cupertino and Mountain View, CA.

The most important point in the article however is not that Flash is evil or open-technologies are inherently superior, it is the importance of understanding what your customers want, determining and weighing the pros and cons of the available technologies and then making the best possible choice.

Ravi nails it in this one succint quote: "Flash is really, really good, but as long as you can keep the hardware controlled...If the hardware you are trying to put your product on isn't [controlled] then Flash is questionable."

In Virgin's case they decided that Flash wasn't the best choice for their website, based on Flash's performance, its inability to reach iPhone users, and how it played a limited, nearly inconsequential role on their existing website. But before anyone declares Flash dead, note that Virgin Airlines will use Flash for their upcoming check-in kiosk system based on its ability to provide a rich interactive experience in a controlled environment.

So today I congratulate Virgin Airlines for their pragmatic approach to incorporating technology for the benefit of their customers. Not that I think they'll need it. Usually when companies make informed technology decisions instead of "going with the flow" or following a prevalent ideaology, the customer wins. And happy customers almost always turn into repeat customers. That's how to do business.

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