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The Future of Flash a Hot Topic at HTML5 Video Summit, SMW

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Without doubt, topic number one at this week's HTML5 Video Summit and Streaming Media West conferences in Los Angeles was Adobe's decision to discontinue Flash Player support on mobile devices.

Adobe's announcement came in the middle of both events. With little in the way of explanation from Adobe, conference speakers and attendees were left to speculate on the reasons.

Shortly before his second day HTML5 Video Summit panel entitled "Comparing Video Delivered with HTML5, Flash Player, and Silverlight," Robert Reinhardt, founder of VideoRx.com, tweeted that "My session today at #SMWest will be presented in light of" the previous evening's news.

The audience was so eager for Flash information that Reinhardt took the microphone 10 minutes before his session started to offer his thoughts. Adobe, he noted, was a platinum sponsor for both the HTML5 Video Summit and Streaming Media West. (That didn't help the organizers get info from the tight-lipped Adobe representatives.)

The Adobe public relations team, Reinhardt suggested, had "contextualized" the news poorly.

Flash may be fleeing the mobile market, but Reinhardt doesn't see it fading from the desktop any time soon.

"Flash is going to be around for the foreseeable future," he said.

While developers will eventually gravitate to HTML5, Reinhardt believes the transition will be a slow one.

Too many of his clients, Reinhardt said, see reaching HTML5 audiences as a cure-all or a Band-Aid. Yet, HTML5 is missing key features, such as alpha channel masking for transparencies, embedded cue points, and support for subtitles and captions. HTML5 video also doesn't offer an immersive full-screen experience.

Web developers are currently in a transition mode, Reinhardt noted, and will have to support more than one technology to reach their entire audience. HTML5 developers are only now starting to learn from their mistakes, he offered.

The HTML5 video tag is a good thing for smartphones and other mobile devices, Reinhardt said, bringing basic video capabilities. It lacks the ability to create an immersive experience, which is less of an issue on a phone. It also lacks adaptive streaming out-of-the-box. Reinhardt said that supporting video on a BlackBerry is a chore.

"BlackBerry continues to be the bane of my existence," he said, adding that he's waiting for the devices to go away.

As for comparing streaming formats, Reinhardt said that both Flash and Silverlight create immersive experiences, work with fluctuating bandwidth, and offer content protection. Their only minus is that they aren't supported on all mobile platforms.

For more on Adobe's decision, read Jan Ozer's Adobe to Discontinue Flash on Mobile Devices.

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