Thursday, April 29, 2010

Apple Didn’t Kill Flash, HTML5 Did

Apple Didn't Kill Flash, HTML5 Did

The battle over Flash and its role (or lack thereof) on the iPhone really came to a head today when Apple CEO Steve Jobs published an open letter expressing why his company won't support Flash on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen spoke with the Wall Street Journal to deliver his response. Unsurprisingly, the arguments from both parties are self-serving in parts and gloss over some of the real world realities.

It's time to cut through the BS and break down what both companies are really arguing and, in turn, what the Apple-Adobe feud means for consumers and developers.

H.264 Rules Web Video, Not Flash

For most end-users, the debate over Flash is largely a debate over web video. Yes, Flash is used in other ways — for web-based games and ever decreasingly in website design — but thanks in large part to YouTube, Flash is most commonly associated with web video.

In his letter, Steve Jobs highlights a point that I have made myself on many occasions — web video is overwhelmingly encoded in H.264. Not only is the H.264 codec the default encoding setting for practically every video service online, it is also by and large the default codec for raw video from digital video cameras. That means if you upload video from your Flip camera directly to YouTube, it doesn't have to convert that video into a new format, which requires more time and more resources.

Adobe started to support H.264 back in 2007, which essentially bought it time as Flash could continue to be used as a video container without video services like YouTube needing to go through the trouble of transcoding the native H.264 video into something else that Flash could us...

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