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Flash to iOS - Journey of a Video

Earlier this month, Apple previewed Final Cut Pro X; the newest version of the company’s professional non-linear video editing software and Photoshop Touch SDK. But, the next biggest announcement was that of Adobe’s declaration to add support for HTTP Live streaming (HLS) to its Flash Media Server.

HLS helps send live or pre-recorded video to iOS devices and Macs, using any traditional web browser. Which means that, companies who create Flash video as part of their workflow can now stream that video to iPads, iPad touches, and iPhones, without the pre-requisite of re-encoding it. This will enable users to watch many Web videos on iOS devices or Flash-free Mac.

In a one of its kind post, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, says, “We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.” Predictably, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan retorted by calling Jobs’ letter “patently false” and “for every one of these accusations made, there is proprietary lock-in” preventing Adobe from addressing any issues.

Adobe already has a server-side streaming technology of its own, HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS). Although, that only works with devices that support Flash. HLS beats HDS when it comes to buy-in. Even Microsoft served Silverlight-encoded video to iOS devices using HLS since 2009. Adobe’s support of HLS marks a shift for both Apple and Adobe. Adobe has lamented iOS’s lack of Flash support since before it was named iOS. And now, with its open support for HLS, it is invalidating some of its own past complaints. Adobe is definitely reaping benefits from this new find, and will also cheer the easier access to iOS devices. Still, Apple seems to emerge as the clear winner.

Apple’s decision of not supporting Flash on iOS increases its credibility along with its informed decision. It also established a page on its website to celebrate the top-tier sites with iPad-friendly HTML5 video, which included You Tube, CNN and ESPN.

Flash is the go-to for many web video providers, but iOS is slowly finding its way around. iOS devices, if one believes Adobe’s announcements, will be able to stream videos without any updates on Apple’e end. Tablets that relied on Flash, will no longer have the upper hand on Apple’s device. Unsatisfied Mac users will also profit with the advent of iOS. John Gruber, Macworld Senior Contributor, has suggested that Mac users uninstall Flash for better performance. With the Flash’s HLS support, Mac users will be able to consume Flash video without needing to install Flash. Adobe’s love for technology will not change anything in regards to Flash’s other uses. iOS will still not be able to support web advertisements, introductory animations and Flash games.

iOS sales have not suffered its lack of Flash support and Adobe is tacitly conceding that if it wants to reach that large number of users, it will have to follow Apple’s terms. Adobe’s new attitude to HLS is a welcome change, but it does not seem to benefit consumers. However, it surely proves a point or two in the field of web video.

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