I am an iPhone guy. I have been since day one. This doesn’t mean that I am entirely happy with all of Apples choices regarding the phone, or the iOS. And as I have said before, I think it’s bullshit that Apple pulled the plug on the Flash Cross Compiler for iOS apps. Below is a recap of an interview with Brightcove‘s Jeff Whatcott about Adroid, iOS, Flash, and HTML 5. The challenges and opportunities and a bit of my own opinion thrown in as well.
Around the end of June, technology firm Brightcove launched its application development SDK for Google’s Android operating system helping broadcasters and media firms create Android applications that include video content. This SDK includes templates that support Adobe’s Flash Player 10.1 which was released at about the same time for Handsets running the latest Android update, “Froyo”.
In a recent interview with Mobile Entertainment, Jeff Whatcott, SVP of marketing for Brightcove, had a number of interesting things to say about the how the company sees the mobile space, Flash, Video, HTML 5, and the state of content creation for mobile devices.
Brightcove has made a name for itself by helping media companies distribute video content online, but as the technology front changes they find themselves increasingly working with mobile, and net connected TV. Brightcove sees the future of video on mobile, but isn’t placing all of its eggs in the HTML 5, iOS basket. It notes that Flash video is the medium of choice for, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Palm through our support for Flash Player 10.1.
“Brightcove allows organisations to deliver video to all kinds of smartphones and mobile devices, fundamentally helping deliver and track usage of that video, monetize it with advertising, and continuously distribute video as quick as our customers can produce it.” according to Whatcott.
It is this devices and OS agnostic approach that gives Brightcove an edge. Customers do not care if the video is delivered via Flash or HTML 5. They just want quality content, and Brightcove knows this. At the end of the day, it is like asking someone “Which is a better broadcast format, NTSC video or PAL? People don’t care if the show displays properly on their TV set, and the content is worth watching. I know this sucks for developers, because you have to author your content in 2 different formats, but the point is to seamlessly reach as many people as possible right?
Another reason Brightcove is heavily supporting Android and Flash video is the fact that 160,000 Android handsets are being activated every day, and Android shipments have exceeded iPhone shipments, and continue to accelerate.
“It’s free, pretty good – if not quite the user experience that you have with the iPhone – and the number of apps is growing, with lots of developer excitement. Clearly it’s going to be a successful platform. Within two to three years, we’re going to have in the mobile world what we had in the PC world a decade ago with Windows and Mac. The equivalent of Windows – the dominant smart phone platform – will be Android.”
Meanwhile, Brightcove is watching the progress of Windows Phone 7, Palm’s webOS and Nokia’s MeeGo platforms, although Whatcott describes them as more likely to be having “defensible niches” than taking on Android. However, the fact that they’re supporting Flash means Brightcove will be able to target them too.
The launch of Brightcove’s Android SDK follows on the heels of the iOS SDK which was launched in November of 2009. The iOS SDK has already been put to use for the FIFA World Cup application and the the Football Association’s official England iPhone app. What they are learning from the iOS SDK and the new Andoid SDK is Brightcove’s clients have slightly different expectations when looking to launch video apps or video within their existing apps.
Whatcott says that Brightcove’s clients have different expectations when looking to launch video applications or video within their existing applications. It’s a case of technical demands, and ensuring that video is delivered at the best possible quality to different handsets on different networks. But Whatcott says companies are also looking for help to bring the advertising they use around video on their websites to their mobile apps too.
“This is more complicated, because most of the advertising technology in the world has been created around the assumption of the availability of the Flash player. When you get to iOS, for reasons that are not entirely clear to us, there is no Flash player, so Brightcove has had to rely on video delivery through HTML5. The thing is HTML5 advertising technology is in its infancy. HTML5 is today where Flash advertising was in 2004, although we’re working feverishly with our partners to eliminate the disparity.” Whatcott says.
Whatcott goes on to say that clients get a rude awakening when they start to launch video on iOS devices, they assume they can do all the same stuff they do on their current websites with Flash, and they can’t.
“Media companies and marketers don’t just want to have video playback, they want to have it playback with advertising, or in a branded player with their own logos and overlays, They want to get analytics around the advertising and playback of video – how many people, how far they watched, where they were, whether they shared video with friends or not. But for HTML5, none of that technology is there. We’re having to write a lot of additional code to make that possible.”
So Bightcove is having to write additional code from scratch to make up for the current shortfalls of HTML 5. Which in a way, is a sign that Apple’s attempt to drag media firms and marketers away from Flash and into HTML5 is having an impact.
Whatcott went on to say, “When Apple said they wouldn’t support Flash, they set their platform back to 2004, and the entire industry is having to retool itself around this new open standard of HTML5. We’re not complaining – it’s important to have standards – but customers weren’t always necessarily aware of this, and their expectations weren’t managed accordingly. Our job is to make sure our customers do not become collateral damage in the platform wars.”
Part of that includes providing the templates in its Android SDK for Flash 10.1. Whatcott says that when Android users visit a website that uses Brightcove video, they’ll be able to watch it as usual if they have Flash 10.1 installed.
However, he points out that this isn’t necessarily a satisfying experience. “The screen is small, and you’re interacting with touch rather than a mouse. You may just see a little box with video, but not the button that sets it to full-screen. It’s a user experience challenge.”
Brightcove’s templates aim to help this by letting website owners redirect Android browsers to customised versions of their pages, with bigger buttons and less clutter.