Mobile OS’s and The Implicit Battle Between HTML5 and Adobe Flash

By Mark Gerardot | January 21, 2011

People just love picking sides. Not too long ago, the CEO of Apple released his thoughts on Flash that created a very visible divide between who supported the “open” platform that included the HTML5 video or the Steve Jobs described “closed” platform that is Adobe Flash. The gauntlet had been thrown down and sides were created and picked.

According to Steve Jobs, Adobe Flash caused problems and crashes, it wasn’t reliable technology and was inevitably going to be replaced by HTML5 in all areas. Too bad HTML5 might not become a standard until probably 2022.

Just a few days ago, Apple had released their latest sales figures and to date have sold some 160 million devices that will not run Adobe Flash at all. While that’s very impressive, collectively Google’s Android mobile OS based cellphones and tablets have been outselling Apple’s iOS offerings since early 2010 and have displayed more ads than Apple. Some of these ads were invariably Adobe Flash based. But this whole HTML5 versus Adobe Flash pseudo-war is more than just about ads and Steve Jobs statements against Flash.

There is also an ongoing battle for the video encoding that will be included in the yet-to-become-a-standard HTML5. At the moment, there’s Ogg Theora, the MPEG-LA based H.264 that Apple and Microsoft both support. And there’s the newest kid on the block, Google’s WebM which is currently supported by Mozilla, Opera and Adobe while being adopted by Google at the same time they were dropping H.264 in Chrome – quite a shocking move. So there is yet another division between Apple and Adobe in what they like as well Google now creating a possible third side. That leads to the question, which one is better? Despite potential fragmentation, HTML5 video still offers web developers a much needed answer to how to deliver video content to multiple and sometimes incompatible platforms and browsers. HTML5 video gracefully degrades and can select the best option between H.264 to Ogg Theora to Adobe Flash for a user.

Wait… so that means that an Apple device can use HTML5 video content just as easily the open source (Ogg Theora) crowd alongside the Adobe and Firefox fans (Mozilla has decided not to support H.264 due to the expensive MPEG-LA license) all on one website with some clever programming and planning. Vimeo and YouTube both have HTML5 video versions of their embed code that you can deploy into your own websites as well as within their respective websites.

But what does that mean for any web developer or interactive agency? If you have clients that require video content to be delivered to many clients with many devices and operating systems, then you should already be using HTML5 for those projects alongside the tried and true Adobe Flash video processes. If you are an agency or developer and have yet to start into HTML5, it’s time to do so now because it is going to become a standard sooner than later. It blurs the divisive line that people have put in place, it allows for a bigger audience on many different devices access to your video content.

Bottom Line: Despite being a self-admitted Adobe fan, expanding your audience is the best side you could ever pick.