Streaming Media

Learn about the latest technologies and business strategies in online video at Streaming Media West!
 

Editor's Note: It Is What It Is

Ever since Apple introduced the iPhone back in 2007, its fans, which are legion, have answered the inevitable question from nonconverts-"So, how do you like it?"-with a variation on the the same answer: "Well, as a phone it's not great, but I love it."

A pretty strange answer when you step away from it, but I've never met anyone who loves the thing for its outstanding ability to place and receive calls. Could you imagine asking someone how they like their new Honda Accord and having them say, "Well, as a car, it leaves some things to be desired, but I'm on my fourth one. I love it!"

Whether or not the reception problems are AT&T's fault or Apple's is really beside the point. Like the iMac and iPod before it, the iPhone is a success not because it serves its supposed core purpose so well, but because it asks consumers to widen the definition of that core purpose to include aesthetics and ease of use. My storage room is littered with MP3 files that sounded just as good as they did on an iPod but were nowhere near as intuitive to use or as appealing to the senses.

I'm not just talking about Apple's much-vaunted "cool factor," which so-called serious computing geeks love to poke fun at; using my Macbook at last year's Streaming Media Europe, I was admonished by one such nerd to get a "proper computer." I'm talking about the way in which Apple has always realized that form and function are inseparable, rather than one following the other.

The iPad is, thus far, the pinnacle of Apple's achievements, one that marks the first time that Apple has created an entirely new device category. The iMac, iPod, and iPhone were all variations on already-established themes. The iPad, on the other hand, is a thing unto itself; you'll note that almost nobody has referred to it as a tablet since its introduction.
And video is absolutely central to its appeal, as anyone who's watched something on it will attest. At both this year's NAB and Streaming Media East, just about every vendor on the show floor was showing off content on the iPad, because its not-quite-HD resolution looks better than true HD on a full 1080p display. Obviously, that's an illusion achieved at the intersection of screen optics and transcoding, but I met plenty of people at both events who ran to the nearest Apple store as soon as they left the trade show floor.

Of course, almost as well-documented as the iPhone 4's antenna issues is the iPad and iPhone's video format limitations-only H.264, no Flash, and HTML5 required for videos to display within webpages. Though the iPad's success doesn't mean Flash (or Silverlight) is dead, it does indicate that another battle in the seemingly never-ending codec and format wars is well underway, one made even more interesting by Google's endorsement of VP8 in the form of WebM. Jan Ozer touches on the technical elements of the fight in his "WebM vs. H.264" article (p. 16), but as has been well-established, the best technology doesn't always win (nor is there a consensus on what exactly definition of "best technology" is, for that matter).

To provide a deeper look into who's adopting HTML5 and who's adapting their video for the iPad, Jan
has published a survey-based report called "Supporting the iPad and HTML5: Timing, Motivation, Costs, and Scope," available at www.streamingmedia.com/research. And to help you make the transition, this issue includes our "HTML5 Video Resource Guide," beginning on page 59.

Apple's latest device is clearly here to stay. As an iPad, it's awesome.