Video giant embraces Flash-phobic iPad with HTML 5
Won't trash-talk Adobe's playa
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. ®
This is a reply, it doesn't need a title!
"Firefox and Opera favouring the presumably free but proprietary and distinctively sounding Ogg"
Eh? OGG is open-source, not proprietary. H.264 is proprietary, not open-source. One is free, the other is not. One you have to (as far as I believe) pay to encode/decode (the pay to part hasn't kicked in yet... but it WILL), the other you don't. Can you guess which is which?
Theora (the video codec, OGG being the container) is, visually superior to H.264 at the same bitrates, much like Vorbis (the audio codec) is audibly superior to MP3 at the same bitrates (Vorbis also gives a nice, richer, warmer sound).
Who, in their right mind, would choose H.264 over Theora?
" Apple can learn to get with the program and support Flash too"
Have you ever 'experienced' Flash on OS X?
No, thought not. Perhaps Jobs might be more sympathetic if Adobe hadn't made such a pig's ear of it. It'll crash your browser, drain your battery and cook your gonads before you can say 'God awful'.
Yak yak yak
Where's the big "this guy has no sense of irony button"?
I see less and less to be got out of bashing Adobe for Flash's apparently poor showing with video. Adobe didn't invent the format but by adding support for video to it they certainly gave video on the web a massive boost as they pretty much ended the codec wars between Real and Microsoft and Quicktime. No server components required as long as your server could cope with clients streaming as fast as they can. Video becomes mainstream, pipes become thicker and we start worrying about the resolution. And all of a sudden it's Adobe's fault?
Enter HTML5, driven along most notably by the Firefox and Opera pragmatists. And now we are looking down the barrel of another codec war with Apple and Microsoft favouring the potentially pay-to-play but impressively standards sounding H.264, Firefox and Opera favouring the presumably free but proprietary and distinctively sounding Ogg and Google happy to jump into bed with anyone who'll look at them and apparently Adobe has got it all wrong? With the weight of content producers and software manufacturers behind it, H.264 is odds on to win but someone will still need to write a plug-in for Firefox and other less trendy operating systems or devices. Will we really be better off?
I'm not a fan of Adobe or Flash but the company has produced lots of software which people are happy to pay for to use and Flash added something to websites that wasn't available any other way* at time and with Flex is as up there with the rest of them. I still maintain that Adobe can drop Flash any time it wants to and generate othogonal standards-compliant content with their tools. And if video servers still require seek support and other goodies, what's to stop them still selling Adobe Media Servers? Apart from Apple, Microsoft or Google lock-in tools? "This film runs best with...." Adobe has got of a proven track record of getting it's stuff working on any many systems** as possible because as they have vested interest in proliferation. One of the reasons why they are such heavy users of Qt.
* Not true, of course, you could do it with Java but designers couldn't code it and programmers couldn't design.
** YMMV and botched implementations are known