Apple wins: Flash is dead as BBC goes iOS online

By Jonny Evans

Flash is dead. The Apple [AAPL] Steve Jobs-vindicating news was officially delivered by the BBC last night in a muted message that video from the UK's public broadcaster's online site is now being made available for playback on iOS devices.


This is the news

This may seem insignificant: after all, lots of video assets are now made available for Apple devices. Adobe itself last month announced it has ended development of mobile Flash.

The move begun during the brief alliance between Apple and Google in the form of encoding of YouTube assets into HTML5 formats is reaching its end. The BBC is a major broadcaster and its move is extremely likely to be emulated on any of the remaining people-facing websites.

The BBC:

"You can now watch video on the BBC News website on your Apple iOS device.

"Supported devices include the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

"Certain content is currently excluded, including live video and clips that are audio only. We hope to be able to introduce these soon. Videos that are currently excluded will appear with the message 'This content is not currently available for your device'."

It could have been different

Already you can access Netflix, YouTube and a host of additional video clip services using an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone. It is now only a question of time until major brands move to adopt HTML5 on their PC services too. This is why Flash is dead.

It could have worked out very differently. Adobe's Macromedia acquisition was driven by that firm's desire to take control of a proprietary codec that then drove the majority of online video experiences, Flash. Additional features were later woven into the software, but these appeared mostly advertiser-focused, rather than people-pleasing.

Adobe's custodianship of Flash has been a slight failure. Not only has it lost it proprietary grip on this part of the industry in favor of open standards, it failed to develop the software sufficiently well to be of use on mobile devices. Attempts to bring the format to Android didn't work out terribly well -- the user experience was hampered by high processor requirements, leading to dropped frames.

"Flash has not performed well on mobile devices," wrote Steve in 2010. "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."

Catching the waves

Flash may have a chance as a development environment. Assets built within it will be exported in other formats for use on all sorts of devices. However, development of such assets seems set to become another major platform and innovation battle, as video becomes an essential part of digitally-switched-on mobile device user's lives.

Adobe walks into that new frontier of disruptive evolution very well-equipped, but will have to watch for where the next wave might come from.

In his much-cited 'Thoughts On Flash' note published last year, then Apple CEO, Steve Jobs challenged Adobe to get with the new post-PC times.

"New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind," he wrote.

Steve was right.

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