In the Apple vs. Adobe Flash brawl, the winner is... online video, eventually

Jim O'Neil Well, boys will be boys and, as expected, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen has fired back at Apple CEO Steve Jobs vis-à-vis their ongoing--and increasingly acrimonious--battle over Adobe Flash.

First, a recap of what Jobs earlier this week wrote in his 1,600-plus word—that’s one-thousand-six-hundred word--assault on all things Flash (by the way, I’m still waiting for even a one word reply—“yes”/”no”—to my note to Steve about getting into his inner-media circle... Steve, are you listening? I love my iPad...), criticizing it for being a closed platform, unreliable, lacking in security, a drain on battery life and poor at handling touchscreen interfaces. He fired back at critics who have lambasted Apple for not including Flash on iPad—a slight that, to critics, at least—is akin to leaving George Washington off Mt. Rushmore, Jesus out of the “Last Supper,” and Joe DiMaggio off a list of “Top New York Yankee Outfielders.”

There is, Jobs said, enough online video content available that doesn’t need Flash to make its absence moot.

Adobe’s Narayen, meanwhile, told the Wall Street Journal that Adobe’s intent is to create a Adobe CEO challenges Appleproduct that’s multi-platform, one that can be used by anyone on any device. He said Jobs is being disingenuous about the other tech issues he cites, calling them a smokescreen. (Check out the video interview with him here.) He says, and he’s probably not too far off base here, that the real reason Apple is shunning Flash is business: Apple can gain the most if it has apps that are exclusive to the Apple platform. "It doesn't benefit Apple," he says, "and that's why you see this reaction."

Perhaps the solution to the brouhaha is just to let the market decide. As Narayen said: "I'm all for letting customers decide... If innovation happens in an open way on all platforms, I think customers benefit. Because they get to choose what apps they use, what tools they use. It benefits developers, it benefits customers."

Needless to say, the online video space is abuzz, or at least the folks who are wholly dependant on Flash to deliver their video, are. People are choosing sides, casting Jobs or Narayen as the hero/villain of the moment depending on what each of them has to gain.

OVPs have no issues with Apple’s stance, at least not publicly. All of them were quick to announce that they would, or already did, support HTML5 and delivery to the Flash-less iPad when it launched. The online ad industry—especially the segment that relies on the interactivity inherent in Flash--is nervous, but looking for HTML5 to be fully developed. They’ll adapt. Where does the encoding industry stand? At the moment, knee deep in cash, and more is on the way as content owners continue to encode new video—and run older video through encoding services again when needed—to make it viewable on the iPad and iPhone. Think of the extra cost for reviving that old video as an Apple-provided stimulus for encoding companies’ revenues; their own “special sauce” for quarter-over-quarter growth.

Right now, the most vocal opposition to retiring Flash—besides Adobe—may be some content owners who are looking to foot the bill to have their old content encoded anew.

But why? Tell me again why we’re worried about ageing video in an industry that uploads years of content every day? Doesn’t it remind you of having to clean out the garage of your just-deceased 96-year-old great aunt? The one who collected “things” for the past 80 years, none of which have a use today and are so common they have little value?

Note to all of you folks out there worried about that seminar you videoed on the new-fangled world of online video a year ago: Throw it away. Take it down. I’m guessing that last seminar is a little dated, even if it was only a year ago. It’s the nature of this beast. You want to play at providing online video content? Be prepared to be aggressive. Post it. Archive it. And realize that no one is really going to go digging very far back into your files for the footage of “How to monetize online video” if it’s more than six months old.

That’s a generation and a half too late; you’re out of touch, Old Timer.

Host another seminar and post it; the world’s changing my friend, and nothing lasts forever.

Reality check: When was the last time you really looked back at content that was more than a year old, especially content that’s more business related than pleasure? (No, watching “The Three Stooges” doesn’t count.) So, why worry about it?

Think of the online video industry like sharks. Sharks keep moving, keep consuming all the time. They don’t move, they die. Consumers are like that, too. They want more video… new video, and contextually relevant video.

The stuff you have online now is old tomorrow. You want UMVs? You want to establish a revenue flow that grows? Post new video. And make sure you encode it in H.264, because even if Flash isn’t dead now, even if it really is the most robust, most agnostic and most "right" player out there, things change. It’s just smarter to keep up with the times, to use the latest technology, the best technology that’s available to you. Revolution through evolution, the bleeding edge.-Jim

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