Apple vs. Adobe: The video debate rages on
Develop | Posted May 20, 2010

No doubt you've heard mention of the Apple versus Adobe debate raging on the Web the past few weeks. I'm not really taking sides on this one (in fact, our tools support both Flash as well as the forming HTML5 standards), but I do have some thoughts I'd like to share.

Apple has been giving Adobe's popular Web video software, Flash the cold shoulder. In April, Steve Jobs published a little manifesto offering Apple's thoughts on Flash. Steve provides a litany of reasons that Apple devices, particularly the new iPad, do not support Flash, including proprietary and reliability issues, to suitability for mobile devices. I don't necessarily disagree with all of Steve's points, but I also think there might be something else going on behind the scenes.

One hypothesis I have is advertising-related. Much of the advertising that appears on big media sites today is Flash-driven. Apple's decision to not support this format could be their way of creating a large enough crack for them to slip into the ad game big time. (iAds, anyone?)

But, I digress. Adobe's Flash is reported to power some 75 percent of today's Web videos and is installed on 95 percent of Internet-connected PCs. While naysayers have suggested that Flash is a CPU hog, some of the benchmarks I've seen comparing Flash to HTML5/H.264 show that Flash is not really more resource-sapping than Apple's suggested alternative.

As an iPhone owner and enthusiastic iPad user, I have regretted the lack of Flash support from time to time, as certain websites don't function, or function poorly, without their Flash components. Nonetheless, I'm very pleased with the device and wouldn't not use it because it lacks Flash support.

It will be interesting to see how the debate plays out, and the blow Apple's positioning might take, if Google is able to get Flash to perform well and function reliably on the Android. Or if the new video format it introduced at its I/O conference, VP8, takes off.


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