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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paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:40:06 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?


I respectfully disagree with you on your assertion on Apple's Control issue being around quality.

It is really, really simple.  It is about the media player and creation software market.  Flash dominates that space for many web applications.  Apple does not want to promote an environment where a competitor is able to deploy its technology in a space that it cares deeply about.

Apple has LOST the desktop and laptop wars.  Microsoft won these - and Flash dominates in these spaces.  Apple wants to become the king of mobile video and wants creators and users to standardize on its products.

There is really nothing wrong with this from my standpoint.  This is where Google is going to hit Apple hard with Android.  If you have not read, Flash is going to be built into the next version of Chrome.  

To me, that is where the tipping point will come from.  Can Apple fight off Android or not over the long haul.  Apple has an infinitely better App Store and a big head start.  Google has the "openness" thing going for them with more platforms and more carriers.  Flash is going to come along for the ride.  If Google wins, it won't really matter that Apple shut out Adobe.  People will be running iTunes on Android.  



^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:40:07 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

folks, you should check out how the H.264 patents are actually handled before you jump in with "urban legend" kind of comments re H.264.

The h.264 patents are actually in a big "patent" pool for all the codecs and other h.264 IP.  All the contributors put in their patents and IP and share from any royalties.  Apple actually is a small player in the creation of h.264 IP and codec patents.  

Go check it out.  A lot of h.264 was created by european research consortia as well as man industry players.  That is why and how it operates as an "open" standard for everyone to use the stacks in their code.

So, while Apple may indeed be a control freak and have several ways to extract value and $ from users via the apps store, but it is not related to h.264 except they choose to use it as their encoder.  H.264 and it's related code allows a nice scalable codec that can be made to look good running at different bit rates and on different platforms.  So h.264 runs on TV's, laptops, desktops with large screens, streams across the web over various speeds, and allows reasonable video on mobile platforms like iphones and ipads.  it is a nice scalable codec that can be made adaptive.

And Apple gets to leverage a large base of sophisticated developers who know a lot about video.


^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:40:07 PM
re: The iPad: a Threat to Flash's Video Dominance?

vuip,  undertood.  So the main reason you bought the iphone was for maps and email?  I would argue that the blackberry is as good for email, but maps and navigation on the iphone are good.  If you don't like it for web browsing and as you stated that you had some disappointments with it as a phone, seems like an expensive phone for your uses.  Are you happy with your iPhone?  Just curious.  I use my phone a lot.  not too many apps, but the ones I have are heavily used.  

I understand as well your position on Flash.  However, for me, I do not see it as a control issue at Apple.  At least not in the way you state.  I do see it as a "control issue" but in terms of QUALITY control.  Quality of the user experience, quality of preventing hidden worms and trojan apps (flash is a pretty good way to get little applets to run on your computer.. so a security hole in some ways) and preventing or at a minimum managing the barrage of ads and scrolling side bars.  I want as clean a user experience as possible and want apps that all run seamlessly.

I think apple, in general, delivers on that. 

Apple has always worked very hard to manage the user experience and user interface.  

So far, I have not suffered from the lack of flash.  On the other hand, I am pretty sure we will see flash running on the platform via some kind of hack over the next few years. 

I too am not buying an iPad at this time.  I probably will when they get to 2nd generation or 3rd generation versions come with updated features.  For me, it is a media device that seems to be an excellent first step, but more steps to come to realize the potential. 

IF they develop more communications tools and features, then I think it could take off faster then anyone believes.  But that would require a video camera built in, web conferencing, some multi-tasking, and support for some external storage via a USB stick or some other kind of storage that can be easily plugged in.  

I can see this being a great media device (not computing, which I agree, a laptop is better at), AND a great communications device.  Video for the masses and video / web conferencing and presentations all integrated for the business crowd / road warrior.

but we shall see as the device evolves in next few turns.  And what do they do now with the iphone next generations?


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".

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

You have a very good point - Flash does play h.264 video, and you don't have to download a bunch of codecs - everything is included in the flash download.

The On2 codec used in Flash is from On2 - not Adobe. And Apple holding several patents for h.264 is another reason to be suspect.

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

Flash ads that do not load, therefore not allowing the webpage to load, are increasing exponentially.

Firefox + AdBlockPlus.  I haven't seen an ad in years.  And it's free.

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.   

Flash ads that do not load, therefore not allowing the webpage to load, are increasing exponentially.  Some will load but make the rest of the site just chug or behave/load strangely.  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.  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.  I rarely download plug-ins, but I have Flash blockers. 

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

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


I often surf on my iphone, though I rarely watch video on it.  For me the iphone is  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).  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).  The ipad is trying to compete with real computers, and it should do so in the most inclusive way possible. 

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.  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). 

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


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

sorry for the double post.  Sticky mouse button.


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


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

I am assuming you do one or more of these on your iPhone.  In which case, your argument against the iPad has a few holes.  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. 


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