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The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

The much-anticipated Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad is being heralded by some as a watershed moment for HTML5, an emerging open standard that could eliminate the need for proprietary plug-ins. But media publishers say it's too early to ring the death knell for Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash, by far the dominant platform for Web-fed video applications and services.

But that's not stopping media publishers from adding support for HTML5. After all, the iPad, which ignores Flash, is expected to sell big starting tomorrow, so no one wants to be caught off-guard should Apple's nifty computer slate catalyze HTML5 adoption and threaten to unseat Flash. Among those that will help push the HTML5 video needle early on is Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), which announced today that it will offer a free iPad app that allows subscribers to stream titles from its "Watch Instantly" library. (See iPad App Store Is Live, iPad Reviews Are In, Apple Begins Shipping iPads, and Netflix Launches iPad App.)

Brightcove Inc. , for example, revealed on its blog on Sunday (apparently, they work weekends over there) that it has supported HTML5 "in basic form since 2008," the same time it started to support the H.264 video format. It then did one better on Monday, announcing the "Brightcove Experience for HTML5," a more thorough framework for HTML5-compatible devices, like Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch, and the brand spanking new iPad.

thePlatform Inc. , the Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)-owned video publishing firm, also offered some detail about its HTML5 efforts this week, noting that it applied an iPad publishing profile to its "mpx Beta" media management system from the get-go. (See ThePlatform Encroaches on Brightcove's Turf .)

Still, HTML5's got a ways to go before becoming a serious alternative, let alone a threat, to Flash, says Marty Roberts, vice president of marketing for thePlatform.

"The concept of HTML5 is great. But there are gaping holes to solve before it becomes a real, viable alternative to something like Flash," says Roberts, who started his career at RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) and was there to witness the bloody format war between Real and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).

Chief among those holes is HTML5's lack of inherent ad policy support, which will make it more difficult for studios to cash in on their Web video offerings. They can "stitch" ads into or around their HTML5 videos, but dynamic mid-roll and pre-roll ads won't factor in early on.

Roberts says HTML5 is also still missing a "robust player framework" to display content, while Flash has solid support for features like search and content sharing.

But those early shortcomings won't persist forever, and today aren't enough to stop anyone from starting to support HTML5. ThePlatform, says Roberts, already has several customers actively looking at the technology, with much of it specifically targeted to the iPad.

"There's a lot of potential for HTML5… but the writing of Flash's obituary is really too soon," Roberts adds, noting that he expects more and more premium content to be put on Adobe's platform with the coming of Flash Access 2.0, which incorporates digital rights management (DRM).

Brightcove seems to agree. HTML5, the company notes, "is here to stay, but it is still in its infancy, and the Flash Platform is not going away for the foreseeable future, so it is important for Website owners to develop a strategy for utilizing both approaches."

And the iPad may be just one of several platforms that will give HTML5 some early momentum. YouTube Inc. is already experimenting with it, contributing to a prediction from our former leader, Scott Raynovich, that YouTube will start streaming HTML5 video by year's end.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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burn0050 12/5/2012 | 4:40:12 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

And people thought Microsoft was bad.


I don't see that Flash is going anywhere soon. There are huge limitations with the video tag.

<ul>
<li>it&nbsp;removes customization of players or controls</li>
<li>it totally complicates the process of delivering pre and post roll ads (not that consumers care, but publishers do)</li>
<li>it removes the possibility of things like interactive video (clicking on portions of a video to get more information, for example)</li>
<li>it limits, if not disables, streaming optimization (since the player on the other end is no longer known, there isn't a way for 2 way communication)</li>
</ul>

And that's just the start of the list. Apparently Apple is still pissed at Adobe for its graphics dominance on their platform. This is all politically motivated on Apple's side - Adobe had flash running on the iphone/ipod platform 6 months after the first iPhone was released, but Apple won't approve it.


I have an iPhone, and I love it (other than AT&amp;T). I would love an iPad (I would love to have one hanging around the couch or bedroom), but I'm just not going to spend money on a laptop semi-replacement that doesn't do flash. I might - dare I say it - wait for Microsoft's Courier...


&nbsp;

iptvisfun 12/5/2012 | 4:40:12 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

Seriously, Apple is just following a more standards-based approach. With Flash, the client is required to support multiple codecs, which can be a drain on resources. By pushing HTML5, they are forcing things into a H.264/AAC world. This is good for two reasons: 1. It keeps things on an open standards track, removing the attachment to proprietary codecs, which are required for full Flash support. 2. It allows Apple to use the custom decoder chip embedded in their platform for handling H.264, resulting in a much more efficient platform.


Apple is being very smart about this. Allowing Flash support would, simply, maintain the status quo. Apple is in a position to influence the behavior of website owners in a way which moves us forward. It is good for Apple and the consumer. And, honestly, who does it hurt? A handful of companies and their licensing revenues? It's worth the price. They've known for a long time this was coming.


Also, HTML5 might be better positioned to support true video convergence (from the TV to the mobile device or to the PC). Ultimately, it will happen.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:40:11 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

Burn,


So you never watch a video on your iPhone? &nbsp;never surf the web? never to youtube or facebook on the iPhone?&nbsp;


I am assuming you do one or more of these on your iPhone. &nbsp;In which case, your argument against the iPad has a few holes. &nbsp;You already have tacitly accepted that "no Flash" is OK with you in the iPhone applications.


Of course, maybe you are one of the few people who only use the iPhone for voice calls.&nbsp;


sailboat

philcolbourn 12/5/2012 | 4:40:11 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

H.264 could be seen as Open, but not in the sense of non-proprietary. Flash don't make their own Codecs, they use others from On2 and MPeg and will support H.264/AAC.


So, just because Flash is&nbsp;proprietary&nbsp;doesn't mean that you are using&nbsp;proprietary&nbsp;codecs.


That said, I think it is time that Flash opens-up or goes away.


Apple have another reason to push proprietary H.264 - they hold some of the patents.


For me, the future is any non-proprietary codec like Theora (or perhaps Google will open On2 codecs).

burn0050 12/5/2012 | 4:40:11 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

A handful of companies? Seriously? Adobe flash video accounts for something like 90% of video traffic on the internet.


Lest we forget - this is not just flash video - this is FLASH. Millions of ads and applications have been written in flash. This affects most companies on the internet.


Apple's disregard for flash has nothing to do with the altruistic notion of "pushing the internet forward". This is about control and money (and ego). Steve Jobs wants to push Apple products, and be deliverer of all media that is digital.


I'm all about capitalism, and Apple is finally getting their day in the sun, and they are gaining the power Microsoft once had. But they are hampering MY internet experience on my iPhone, and losing an iPad sale because of it. That is really the only reason I won't buy one.


So, while this may be good for the internet (like trying to get browsers HTML compliant) - it's not good for me.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:40:11 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

Burn,


So you never watch a video on your iPhone? &nbsp;never surf the web? never to youtube or facebook on the iPhone?&nbsp;


I am assuming you do one or more of these on your iPhone. &nbsp;In which case, your argument against the iPad has a few holes. &nbsp;You already have tacitly accepted that "no Flash" is OK with you in the iPhone applications.


Of course, maybe you are one of the few people who only use the iPhone for voice calls.&nbsp;


sailboat

voiceunderip 12/5/2012 | 4:40:10 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

Sail,


I often surf on my iphone, though I rarely watch video on it.&nbsp; For me the iphone is&nbsp; a terrific email-reader/calendar/map tool that allows some light surfing when necessary (it's also a phone, although in that respect it often falls short).&nbsp; Web surfing on the iphone is way ahead of earlier smart phones, but still far short of surfing on a 'real computer' (even a low-end laptop).&nbsp; The ipad is trying to compete with real computers, and it should do so in the most inclusive way possible.&nbsp;


Apple's ommision of flash is all about control... they don't want anything to compete with their app store and they don't want you to be able to run non-Apple-approved stuff on the device you paid for.&nbsp; I think they also put limitations on their built-in javascript that prevent running anything like an application (don't know if this is still true for the iPad).&nbsp;


The iPad looks like a polished device and I'm sure there's much to like about it, but these kind of restrictions on a $500+ device are enough to keep me from buying one.


- vuip


&nbsp;

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:40:10 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

sorry for the double post. &nbsp;Sticky mouse button.


sailboat

somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 4:40:09 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

I do not think I will ever own an iPAD, but anything that assists in the death of Flash I am 100% behind.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;


Flash ads that do not load, therefore not allowing the webpage to load, are increasing exponentially.&nbsp; Some will load but make the rest of the site just chug or behave/load strangely.&nbsp; I am not sure if they are poorly written or there are version mismatch issues, but I am seeing this more and more across all browsers and on more websites.&nbsp; Maybe Flash is a large % of net traffic because so many instances are stuck in an endless loop.


I am not a programmer, just a avg consumer, about the only thing I know about Flash is that I hate it.&nbsp; I rarely download plug-ins, but I have Flash blockers.&nbsp;


Advetisers, if you use it I most likely will not see your ad.&nbsp; Websites, if your site uses it I may not visit as often as I may only be able to on my iphone.

burn0050 12/5/2012 | 4:40:08 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

I have watched video on my iPhone. And surfed the web. And watched YouTube. I use the Facebook app - but that still doesn't support video on the phone.


However, I bought my iPhone for portability, and it's other uses, like as a phone. The gps with google maps means I don't have to print out directions. So, while I miss flash on the iPhone, I can compromise.


However, on a device like the iPad, that doesn't cut it. I would get one to replace my computer - at least the things I can. Browsing the web would be the biggest one. But there are sites I visit that I can't see parts of because they are written in flash. Something I could complain to the website owner about, yes. But I visit many, many sites that use flash for their video that AREN'T youtube. And I get annoyed when I get an email update and am unable to see it from my phone. Were I to have an iPad, I would be downright pissed - because I would get one so I don't have to go downstairs to my office to look at it on my computer. When I should be able to watch it there on my iPad.


The other reason Apple doesn't want to support Flash is because it would compete with their app store. Why buy an app you could run in your browser? I'm not so against this one, because I understand Apple's position. So, let's not forget this there is money and control at stake here, not Apple's benevolence at "advancing the web".

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