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Secret Video Attack Vector

Thinking about the iPad and the appealing idea of watching video on this device, the usual objections come up about being limited to the Apple iTunes ecosystem, and being shut out from great stuff, just like the AppleTV is.

But wait a second, there’s a second way to get video on your iPad, just like on an iPhone/iPod touch: apps can stream video. In fact, there are a bunch of these already. In many cases, the apps scratch the itch of certain niches. Apple continues to trot out the MLB app to show off crowd-pleasing baseball video, but I notice that I have downloaded at least four apps for streaming anime: Crunchyroll, Babelgum, Joost, and The Anime Network. Looking on the App Store, I see a few others, including one app that exists just as a container for the first volume of the charming His and Her Circumstances.

Let’s think here. Some of these services (Crunchyroll and Anime Network) offer Flash-based viewers on the web, but they’re not in the Flash business, they’re in the content business, so they use a different technology to get their content to iPhone OS viewers.

And what is that technology? By Apple fiat, it is HTTP Live Streaming, which Apple recently declared as the only permitted technology for streaming video to iPhone OS devices. Technically, it seems like you could also use HTML5 <video> tags in a UIWebView, but there are lots of nice reasons to use HTTP Live Streaming (content providers are probably happy to see DRM in the spec, even if most of us consumers aren’t).

So here’s what I’m wondering. If content providers are going to have to use HTTP Live Streaming to support all the iPhone OS devices, is this eventually going to put pressure on Flash? All that has to happen is for HTTP Live Streaming to become more viable on desktops, and then you’ll have a video distribution solution that skips the Adobe tax and the extra step of Flash encoding. HLS is supported by QuickTime X on Snow Leopard, but I don’t believe that the Windows version of QuickTime handles it yet. Pity.

Still, if I were Adobe, I’d be pretty concerned about HTTP Live Streaming right now.

Comment (1)

  1. jedrichards

    What do you perceive the Adobe “tax” to be, and how is encoding for Flash an “extra step”? Flash has supported playback of H264/AAC video since Flash 9.0.115, surely something of a de-facto standard for web video at the moment.

    The Flash 10.1 client also supports a version of HTTP Live Streaming that they’re calling HTTP Dynamic Streaming. Sounds very similar to the Apple solution, but I don’t think they’re cross compatible! 😉

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