On Apple's iPad, HTML5 and Flash
It's common knowledge by now that the iPad doesn't support Flash, and Apple's choice to squeeze Flash out of their red-hot iPhone and iPad market set off a feud between the Apple and Adobe companies that seems to escalate a little more each day. Now at the heart of the dispute is the fifth generation of hypertext markup language, known as HTML5. So what is HTML 5, why is it such a big deal, will it replace Flash? Our hope in this article is to help provide some balance and clarity onto this discussion.
What is HTML5?
We're sure by now you've heard the term "HTML5" thrown around by the likes of Apple and Google. This is the next evolution of HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, which forms the backbone of almost every site on the Internet. HTML4, the last major iteration of the language, debuted in 1997 and has been subsequently poked and prodded so that it can handle the demands of the modern Web.
Why is HTML5 such a big deal?
HTML 4 has been tweaked, stretched and augmented beyond its initial scope to bring high levels of interactivity and multimedia to Web sites.Plugins like Flash, Silverlight and Java have added media integration to the Web, but not without some cost. In search of a "better user experience" and battery life, Apple has simply dropped support for some of these plugins entirely on mobile devices, leaving much of the media-heavy Internet inaccessible on iPads and iPhones. HTML5 adds many new features, and streamlines functionality in order to render these processor-intensive add-ons unnecessary for many common functions.
Now Apple made available numerous iPad-ready applications and began listing Web sites that have been optimized and enhanced for compatibility with the iPad's features. The first iPad-ready websites (13 in total) include CNN, Reuters, New York Times, Vimeo, Time, Major League Baseball, The White House, Virgin America, Sports Illustrated, Flickr, People Magazine, and TED. Of the first 13 iPad-ready websites, Vimeo, CNN, and Flickr are likely to be the websites of most interest. Websites like YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook are absent from the list of iPad-ready websites, but hopefully will be joining the list of iPad-ready websites soon - until then, the list of the first iPad-ready websites leave a bit to be desired.
Will HTML5 replace Flash?
The quick answer is no. However, there is a lot of nuance here and it's helpful to make the distinction between Flash and HTML5.
- Flash has inertia on its side. Major content sites such as Disney and Hulu still use Flash to deliver video, animation, and interactive experiences. According to Adobe's statistics, Flash has over 90% penetration in mature markets. Developers already know how to use Flash and ActionScript to create these experiences. In short: there are a lot of folks invested in Flash as a platform.
- HTML5 isn't quite ready for prime time. It's a shifting standard, a work-in-progress. Though even Internet Explorer 8 supports some significant HTML5 features, Internet Explorers 6 and 7 do not. And both browser versions are still used widely enough that dropping support is not an option for most developers
- Flash is a good choice for Rich Media Apps development.In particular, this includes online video, rich media advertising and marketing, and online games (casual games). All of these kinds of applications are highly focused on having a great and immersive experience that just works, and the creators of these apps are very focused on audience reach — anything that impedes 100% consumer acceptance is a significant concern. Here, Flash is dominant. The unique runtime characteristics of Flash, combined with its incredible reach, has led these types of apps to become highly dependent on Flash, and massive amounts of the broadband economy are dependent on it. It seems unlikely that HTML5 would be at all positioned to replace Flash for these categories, though it is clearly worth watching how consistent rich media runtimes find their way into the HTML5+ standard.
Got Flash video, and want to put on iPad?
A new report recently shows 26% of the video on the Web is iPad-ready, you may think that's low (that means 74% of the web can't be seen on the iPad), but that number actually represents a good amount of growth, as just a scant few months ago, only 10% of Web video was iPad-accessible, or encoded in H.264 or HTML 5, not Flash. Currently, if you got some Flash .flv video and want to watch them on iPad, There are many 3rd-party iPad Video Converter software can help you convert Flash videos into iPad compatible video files. You can try a free download and then make the right choice.
It is not so much that HTML5 can replace Flash by matching it feature by feature. But stepping back and looking at this specifically in the context of hand-held computing, where Apple is politically motivated to block the Flash runtime, it is apparent video publishers will be driven to build and operate solutions that leverage HTML5 Video on mobile and iPad browsing environments.
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