Adobe Has Nothing to Fear from iPad and HTML5, Says Analyst

Adobe could maintain its strength as an online rich-media provider despite Apple excluding Flash support from its mobile devices and Google using HTML5 in YouTube, says a new analyst report from Jefferies & Co. In a conversation with eWEEK, Adobe executives suggested that the ubiquity of Flash, and the porting of Flash Player 10.1 onto smartphones running Google Android and other mobile operating systems, will help it maintain a robust presence in the rich-media platform arena.

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Adobe may have little to worry about from Google's use of HTML5 in YouTube and Apple shunning Flash for the iPhone and iPad, according to a new analyst report from research firm Jefferies & Co. That report follows recent blogosphere buzzing over whether the lack of Flash support for Apple's new tablet PC could prove detrimental to Adobe if the device proves a hit with businesses and consumers.
HTML5 includes support for embedding video in HTML pages, in theory reducing the need for proprietary platforms such as Adobe and Microsoft's Silverlight.
"Apple's exclusion of Flash from the iPhone/iPad and Google's YouTube beta that uses an HTML5 video tag are recent events that have caused investors to raise concern over the future of Flash (which is today's leading Internet rich media/video container)," Jefferies & Co. analyst Ross MacMillan wrote in a Feb. 10 research note. "We think Flash will remain a leading (but not the only) rich media platform, and, more importantly, this has almost zero bearing on numbers over the next 18 months."
Furthermore, MacMillan added, "HTML5 in its current specification does not support many of the features that Flash supports, such as audio streaming or games. Finally, we find it hard to believe that Flash will remain off the iPhone indefinitely, especially as it is supported by the competing Android OS."
Google has issued pictures of a tablet PC running Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system slated for release later this year.
In the meantime, though, Adobe has been reacting to the lack of Flash support for Apple's iPad, and the possible implications if the device proves to be a paradigm-shifting blockbuster.
"It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers," Adrian Ludwig, a member of Adobe's Platform Product Marketing team, wrote in a Jan. 27 posting on the Adobe Flash Platform Blog. "Without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of Web content, including over 70 percent of games and 75 percent of video on the Web."
In the absence of Flash, Ludwig said, Websites hobbled by the iPad would include Hulu, ESPN, Disney and JibJab. "Adobe and more than 50 of our partners in the Open Screen Project are working to enable developers and content publishers to deliver to any device," he added, "so that consumers have open access to their interactive media, content and applications."
During a town hall meeting at Apple headquarters in the days following the iPad announcement, CEO Steve Jobs allegedly suggested that his company's reluctance to use Flash stemmed from its supposedly buggy nature. According to online reports, Jobs also suggested that the Web was trending toward HTML5.
In a Feb. 9 conversation with eWEEK, Adobe executives insisted that the ubiquity of Flash on the Web, and the porting of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 onto smartphones running Android, Windows Mobile and WebOS sometime in the first half of 2010, would help keep its brand strong in the short- to medium-term. The company plans a number of announcements to coincide with the start of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 15.