Are the days numbered for Flash video?

Microsoft slams Flash, standardizes on H.264, but continues to support Adobe and its Flash efforts. Score one for Apple?
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

It's no secret that Apple won't be offering Flash on the iPhone or iPad anytime soon, but now it looks like Microsoft is also putting down Adobe's offering.

In a post on the IEBlog, Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager, Internet Explorer, clearly states that the future of the web is HTML5. To that end, he also mentions that not only is Microsoft "deeply engaged" in the HTML5 process with the W3C, but that the company will support playback of H.264 video only in IE9. Currently, HTML5 doesn't specify a particular video format, but Microsoft has standardized on H.264 because it's an industry standard and the company believes it's "an excellent format".

Microsoft goes on to mention that the web today is predominantly Flash-based, and that there are some issues with Flash, around reliability, security and performance. However, the company also goes on to say that they're basically working with Adobe to fix them. Without saying so directly, it appears that Microsoft is pretty much guaranteeing to continue to support non-video playback functions of Flash going forward.

So, what does this really mean? For one, Microsoft did recognize the issues around Flash, but at the same time pledged to support and work with Adobe to resolve them as best it can. On the video playback front though, it's clear that Microsoft is standardizing on H.264. This is great news since it definitely means that the big guys are trying to stay in support of the standards.

As for mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad, it's clear that more companies are moving to support non-Flash-based video playback. We'll have to see how long it takes for the web to really standardize on H.264 instead of Flash. My hope is that in the coming months most sites will either default to H.264 (since a lot of browsers are already supporting HTML5) or will offer up an option to view a non-Flash-based video.

Of course, the big winner here will be Apple, since the company publicly criticized Flash and Adobe and asked that Adobe focus on creating great HTML5 tools instead of "criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind". Now other companies are coming out against Flash as a video playback tool, and in the end it looks like the industry will truly embrace not only HTML5 but video playback of H.264. Finally we're moving towards standards that will work in both traditional PC settings and mobile.

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