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Video giant embraces Flash-phobic iPad with HTML 5

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Adobe's Flash Platform took another hit Monday when a leading online video technology provider announced enhanced and growing support for HTML5, specifically intended to support non-Flash devices such as Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Brightcove, which describes itself as a "a cloud-based online video platform," said in its announcement: "The Brightcove Experience for HTML5 provides support for intelligent device detection, playlist rendering, and playback of H.264 encoded video content. Customers are using the Brightcove Experience for HTML5 today to build iPad-ready websites."

Note that Brightcove makes no mention of the open-source Ogg Theora codec that's used, for example, in the latest version of Opera's HTML5-enhanced browser. Brightcove is going the license fee–required H.264 route.

The announcement names The New York Times (a Brightcove investor) and Time as content providers that are "already taking advantage of the Brightcove Experience for HTML5 solution to produce iPad-ready websites".

Brightcove has an enormous amount of clout in the online video biz. With offices in London, Hamburg, Bejing, Tokyo, Barcelona, New York and Seattle, it boasts more than 1,000 customers in 42 countries. In addition to the NYT and Time, these include Sky, 20th Century Fox, Condé Nast, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Pictures Television, Discovery Communications, ITV, Turner Broadcasting, Hearst Magazines and Fox International.

Within the year, Brightcove intends to expand the Brightcove Experience to include support for "customization and branding of the player environment, advertising, analytics, social sharing, and other capabilities currently found in Brightcove experience solutions for other platforms".

Jeff Whatcott, Brightcove's senior vice president for marketing, said in a detailed blog post that HTML5 support is not new from Brightcove. The company's customers, he said, may be "somewhat surprised to learn that Brightcove has supported HTML5 in basic form since 2008, which is when we began to support the H.264 video format and released our open Media APIs for accessing content stored in the Brightcove online video platform".

What is new in Monday's announcement is that Brightcove is "more crisply" describing its video platform's HTML5 capabilities, and more-specifically outlining its roadmap for broad HTML5 support, according to Whatcott.

He cautions developers not to toss Flash in the trash anytime soon, however: "HTML5 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."

That said, Whatcott notes: "Many publishers are worried that they will be missing a substantial audience if they rely exclusively on a Flash-only strategy. That is driving publishers to look for ways to deliver an equivalent video experience to what they can offer with Flash, but implemented using the HTML 5 standard."

And that's where the Brightcove Experience for HTML5 comes in. Whatcott said the "experience" in the platform's rather unweildy name indicates that the platform isn't merely for video playback, but also encompasses such niceties as branding, playlists, ad placement, analytics, user profiling, localization, security and more.

Although Brightcove's HTML5 announcement might be met with a bit of gloom in Adobe's headquarters, Whatcott does offer some encouraging words for the Flash folks. "One of the things you won't see from Brightcove is the Flash-bashing rhetoric that you may hear elsewhere. Our work to support HTML5 is not about weakening Flash, it is about pragmatically solving problems for our customers. Flash is and will continue to be a critical platform for us and for our customers," he said.

Despite his assurances that his company isn't interested in weakening Flash, Whatcott didn't say how long Brightcove's dual Flash/HTML5 support will last. Taking the long view, industry-wide Flash support appears to be weakening on its own. ®

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