iPad offers online video industry a fourth screen; 8-10 million sales forecast in 2010

Jim O'Neil

If you waited a bit to pull the trigger on buying your iPad, you may have to wait a bit longer for delivery of the hot Apple tablet than you may want to. Not only has Apple pushed new-order ship dates out until April 12, analysts are now saying the first several hundred thousand orders that Apple took for the iPad in the first couple of days it became available, are only a small bubble of the coming torrent they now forecast could be reach 2.5 million units from March to May alone. A Morgan Stanley analyst now is predicting the iPad could hit the 8-10 million unit sales mark for 2010.

The expected popularity of the iPad, which starts hitting the street Saturday, has prompted the online video industry to kick its own development into high gear.

Apple's iPad is sans Flash because Apple CEO and founder Steve Jobs contends it's a memory hog, has a number of security issues and is old Apple iPad sales forecast videotechnology. Instead, the iPad embraces HTML5 and the h.264 video codec.

That's created a bit of a crunch for OVPs and websites that are Flash dependent, and is causing a flurry of activity.

Online video platforms Brightcove and Ooyala, among others, have announced support of HTML5 in time for the iPad launch, and at least one major broadcasting network, CBS, is testing its own delivery in h.264 form to the iPad.

YouTube, the world's most-viewed video hub--and likely still the most Flash-dependent site on the web--in January launched limited HTML5 support for non-monetized videos, so iPad users will be able to watch video there as well. It continues to work on bringing overlays and its monetized videos to HTML5.

Hulu, which served up more than a billion video streams in December and is the site for catch-up online video is Flash based and, while rumors have run rampant, it hasn't announced formally what it intends to do to get its videos onto the iPad. The hottest Hulu rumor? That Hulu will offer a subscription service to iPad owners.

Want to play catch-up on the iPad in general?

  • Check out this video that talks about iPad sales forecast and how the industry has underestimated its likely popularity;
  • Check out this PC World story to see the latest apps coming for the iPad;
  • BestBuy will have iPads for sale ... but only 15 per store, one blogger writes.

What does the iPad really mean for the online video industry? In a lot of ways, it's an opportunity to expand to another screen, a fourth screen that hasn't usually been a major part of the discussion; it's essentially a new category: PC, smartphone, TV ... iPad (and the other tablet devices to follow). And this screen, a truly portable, watchable and shareable screen is a game changer, maybe not iPad v1.0, but the screens that are following. You've all attempted to watch video on a smartphone. How's the user experience? Is your laptop really that portable?

Let's, for a minute, stop looking at the iPad shortcomings (OK, you can't make a call or open multiple programs or take a photo or video-yet), and instead look at it as just what it can be for the online video industry: a window of opportunity. How's your company planning to open it? Drop me a note and let's talk about it ... I'll tell you all about my iPad. - Jim