By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)
We conclude our ”Gadget Week” with a look at the future of devices and how new content for them will be developed. As we cast our eyes to the future, many are asking, “Will the iPad (or Apple in general) kill Flash?”
As iPad sales continue to rocket upwards and the enmity between Apple and Adobe seem to grow at a similar pace, this is the question of the moment for many in the technology field. Steve Jobs’ open letter to the development community is only the latest salvo in what is turning out to be a full-fledged war between the former allies.
But the answer to the question is a little more complex than just iPhone and iPad adoption rates. Yes, the over 50 million iPhones sold since launch and the 1 million iPads sold just this month are a testament to the popularity and potential of Apple platforms. But the lack of Flash support on these devices is not necessarily the game changer that will encourage widespread adoption of HTML5.
“I don’t expect to see full implementation of HTML5 across all the major browsers until the end of 2011 at least,” says Philippe Le Hegaret, interaction domain leader for the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), who oversees the development of HTML5.
While some browsers like Safari and Firefox have significant support for HTML5 already, Internet Explorer remains far behind in integration. Google’s Chrome browser, however, has very robust support for the new language/programming suite.
But even if all browsers were progressing at the same rate, video support remains the main factor blocking widespread adoption of HTML 5. HTML5 is designed to support native video playback. But both Apple (through Quicktime) and Microsoft (through it’s Silverlight plug in) have interest in non-open source video formats. Google and Mozilla support the open source Ogg Theora video format but with a major device manufacturer (Apple) and a major browser/software developer (Microsoft) supporting other standards it’s hard to see a bright future for the format. It may be well beyond 2011 before a common standard is agreed upon.
All this favors, Flash being used for several years to come. Also, Google supports Flash on its current phones and OS. Whether these devices will reach the critical mass of the Apple products remains to be seen but they are providing a strong alternative. Companies like Brightcove are also trying to find ways for companies to author code that can be easily converted in to both Flash and HTML 5.
Finally, while Flash has recently abandoned plans to support the iPhone and iPad (largely in response to Apple’s changes in it’s developer terms and conditions that banned code translators like CS5), they made find the lure of the billion-dollar iPhone app market to alluring to resist. They may yet find a solution that Steve Jobs can live with.
Flash is definitely an aging technology. And numerous factors from SEO incompatibility to mobile support are making it a less frequent choice for many developers. But it does remain ubiquitous technology on the web right now. Our technology team agrees with Apple that HTML5 is the future. But that future may not be as close as the folks in Cupertino think it is.
What do you think the future of gadgets looks like? And do you see a role for Flash in that future?