Steve Jobs on iPad and Flash, and the ascendancy of online video

Jim O'Neil

NBC and Time Warner aren't buying Apple CEO Steve Jobs' sales pitch on the iPad as the future of online video, at least not for the moment, and they say that, to be considered a player in their eyes, the tablet has to have Adobe Flash.

The New York Post last week quoted sources as saying Apple's stance on banning Flash from its rising star would cause the studios to look elsewhere--like at the soon-to-be-released tablets from Hewlett-Packard and Dell--for mobile screens.

And, the sources said Apple wouldn't be in a position to dictate terms to studios once Google TV hits the market this fall.

How'd it sit with Apple?

Well, Jobs yesterday reiterated that the best hope for online video was for programmers to aggressively price their content, ala iTunes, and work on the premise that the quantity of sales will drive profits.

As for Flash, well, Jobs still contends it's a relic that will be pushed aside as HTML5 development continues, and that consumer demand for the iPad, which is selling at the rate of one every three seconds, bears him out. The company has sold more than 2 million iPads in two months, a pretty good indication that Jobs is on the money--again.

While media execs say they're concerned that the cost of converting all of their files to work on the Flash-less iPad will be cost prohibitive, what may actually be more costly is if they don't. The consumption of online video continues to grow, continues to move into the mainstream and simply isn't slowing down.

A new report released last week that was commissioned by online software firm Real Networks (reality alert: it was an online poll and I haven't seen a word on its margin of error or how it was conducted by surveyor YouGov) says that 46 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds say they watch as much online video as they do television. Among respondents to the poll, 32 percent overall said they watched as much online video as television.

Jobs also yesterday predicted that the desktop PC--the PC in general, actually--was destined to become a niche product, pushed aside by mobile devices like the iPad, smartphones and the like. He isn't the first to forecast that rise of mobile, but coming from the guy who brought Apple back from the brink, a company now worth more than archrival Microsoft, it carries a certain level of credulity.

From my own experience, I have no argument with him. I use my iPad more than any other device I have. I've written posts on it, edited copy, read books, watched Netflix movies and the episode of Lost I missed while travelling. It was such a conversation starter at NAB, that I could have made money passing it around to all the online video executives who just wanted to play with it.

It's also the most popular device in my household where it gets used by my college-aged sons--when their heads aren't in the refrigerator--to watch YouTube videos, chat on AIM and Facebook and watch MLB games. My wife uses it to catch up on shows she's missed on ABC, read and check her Facebook account. It has pushed aside the laptop that used to get all that play.

Is Big Media missing the boat with the iPad? It is at the moment. But this game is just beginning, there's plenty of time for them to come around. -Jim

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