When Apple first introduced the iPad to the world, there was more than a bit of consternation around the fact that the new device, which finally ships next week, wouldn’t support Adobe Flash. While limiting access to a whole range of Flash-based games and web sites that rely on the plugin for their user interface, lack of Flash support would also mean that iPad owners wouldn’t be able to watch a lot of web video that is delivered via Flash.
We first theorized that video publishers would turn to creating iPad apps and selling shows and movies through iTunes as a way to get around the device’s lack of Flash support. But now it looks like growing support for HTML5 video will alleviate some of those issues, as publishers and technology vendors alike move to support the web standard.
An early test on CBS.com shows how some publishers might approach the problem, by creating HTML5 video pages specifically designed for video playback on the iPad’s Safari browser. By using device auto-detect measures, those publishers can deliver the appropriate HTML5 videos when a user drops by with a device that doesn’t support Flash, but revert back to the Flash player when connecting from a desktop machine.
As a result of publisher interest, some technology vendors are already moving to support these measures. White-label video platform provider Ooyala, for instance, already announced support for H.264-based HTML5 video delivery on the iPad, and more are sure to follow in the lead-up to the release of the device.
But HTML5 video could expand beyond just the iPad, especially since they will already be encoding and delivering video to meet the needs of the device. There’s no reason, for instance, that publishers couldn’t auto-detect supporting browsers and use HTML5 and H.264 encoding when available, while using the Flash player as a fallback on the desktop.
Of course, this assumes that the same analytics and advertising features that are already available on Flash will soon be enabled through HTML5 video players. Without a good way to measure or monetize video delivered through HTML5, the use of the web standard will be limited to niche applications or devices where there isn’t a better solution already available. Given the opportunity that the iPad presents, however, we can expect publishers and technology providers to work hard to enable those features as quickly as possible.
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