Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Apple and Adobe: Will HTML5 Win?

It’s been a little while since Steve Jobs publicly called out Adobe’s laziness and banned Flash applications for Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad products. Subsequent to the news, we all saw a big wave of questions, discussions, concerns, and opinions on the subject. Lately it seems like the internet and its users have come to terms with the topic. Though there are no more discussions, the fundamental issue between Apple and Adobe stands as it was. Looking at the advancements and experiences released in past few months for apple products, I think, yes, the Apple and Adobe conflict will have lasting effects on the future of Flash. Steve Jobs will also be remembered in the history for bringing a change to the status quo interactive experience tools. What the future holds for developing interactive experiences is still a big question. Will HTML5 win it all? What about Microsoft’s Silverlight or something new from Adobe itself?

HTML 5 at least at theoretical level seems to promise a good future. It is true that everyone needs to start thinking about adoption of HTML 5 but there are some major problems. HTML 5 is not yet supported on all browsers. Video streaming –basics of interactive experience – is still not standardized on all browsers. Browsers such as Safari, Chrome and Firefox which support HTML 5 do not agree on using standard codecs. The power of Flash comes from the fact that it runs on more than 96% of browsers worldwide. Flash provides a way to move beyond standards issues. HTML 5 has a long way to go to get there. Additionally, HTML 5 cannot do everything that Flash can so we need to understand that it is not 1:1 switch. Microsoft’s Silverlight on the other hand offers almost everything Flash does but its adoption levels are still very low and close to just about 55%.

Steve Jobs thinks Adobe is a lazy company. I think he is right. Apple wants to change the game for how video streaming and digital interactions works. Apple can take this kind of risks because it controls everything it develops. Apple controls hardware to operating systems to basic software to applications that run on its products. But for larger industry to make this kind of move it will take a lot of time, energy and resources. So in a short run I do not think marketers and publishers need to worry about Flash. In a long run innovation will define what will replace Flash. Will it be HTML 5, Silverlight, something new or Flash itself!

I like to place bets, and this time looking at how category for tablet and smart phone is growing, I think it will be Flash that will replace Flash nothing else!

-- Salim Hemdani