Glide OS, the cloud-based operating system that runs in your browser, is phasing out Adobe Flash in favor of HTML5. This transition begins with a new version of the company's site that's been designed specifically for Apple iPad owners. Beginning Thursday, visitors to Glide's site will see the Flash version if they're on a normal computer, whereas on the iPad, they'll get the HTML5 flavor.
Glide's CEO and founder, Donald Leka, told CNET on Wednesday that the idea to go with HTML5 came out of simple compatibility issues. "The iPad does not support everything, and from the very beginning we've been focused on cross-platform compatibility. So we wouldn't have Glide on it if you couldn't open up your files." With Glide being an all Flash app, that goal obviously faced some hurdles given Apple's no Flash policy.
Glide's HTML5 version gets around incompatibilities by transcoding just about any file type on the server side. "FLV or Windows Media videos--we convert them on the fly, and it works really, really well," Leka said.
Along with file storage, many of Glide's other Web applications have crossed the divide to work without Flash. "Apple didn't make it any easier for us, but we've been able to transport a long list of services," Leka explained. Built in is a search tool that can run queries in multiple engines, and a document editor that can open up stored Microsoft Word documents and let users edit them as well.
All of the features are wrapped into a new UI that floats to the same spot when you scroll down the page, much like the message options found in the mobile Web version of Gmail. "Scrolling isn't very enjoyable on a normal computer, but on something like Microsoft's Surface, or the iPad, it's fun," Leka said. "We wanted to take advantage of that."
As for why Glide isn't releasing its service offerings in a native application, Leka said he didn't think Apple would let it through the company's app approval process. "We were concerned to be honest. I'm not so sure Apple is going to be receptive. A lot of this competes with [Apple's] MobileMe service. We'll see how open they are to us having access to the device itself," he said. Leka did note that the company is working on some location-based features, that will take advantage of the user's location for Glide's own apps; this will be added to both the HTML5 and Flash versions of the site.
Leka says the full version of Glide will eventually make the transition to HTML5, but for now there are certain features that make use of third-party tools, which cannot yet be converted, as well as a sizable group of Internet Explorer users. "We are moving to effectively replace everything in Glide with an HTML5 experience. We see that HTML5 is definitely the future. The thing that Flash had before was ubiquity, but Steve Jobs nixed whatever that was with the iPhone and iPad," Leka said.