One of my explanations for Google’s decision to drop native HTML5 support for H.264 is that it is a masterful bluff to secure more favorable licensing terms for H.264, but it just occurred to me that Google’s decision effectively kills HTML5 video adoption and forces video content providers to continue using Flash as the delivery mechanism for H.264 compressed streaming video. But why would Google which purports to be in favor of open web standards want to kill HTML5? Simple, it kills the only means of delivering video to Apple’s iOS devices which include iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices which greatly helps Google’s Android smartphone Operating System.
Apple made the decision to not allow Adobe Flash on iOS devices because they want to retain sole control over application distribution and design with their App Store. And since the world was starting to move to the HTML5 standard for online video delivery, Apple would be going with the flow by encouraging mass adoption of HTML5. HTML5 would have become the universal delivery platform for video streaming with H.264 content on both Apple iOS devices, personal computers running Windows or Mac, Linux with the appropriate plugins, Android OS, and just about any other device capable of video streaming. The current near-universal delivery platform was Adobe Flash but that was losing steam because of its inability to reach Apple iOS.
By crippling HTML5 H.264 under the guise of supporting Google’s VP8 codec (which is a nonstarter because VP8 is inferior to H.264, carries potential patent infringement liabilities, and H.264 is entrenched in billions of hardware devices while VP8 has no current support), the only remaining viable option for most content producers is to continue delivering H.264 via the Adobe Flash platform or via Microsoft Silverlight like Netflix. Larger content providers will be able to deliver H.264 compressed video on both Flash or Silverlight for most of the world and HTML5 just for Apple iOS devices, but smaller sites won’t and Apple iOS devices will have limited access. Google Android devices will be able to reach Flash websites like Windows or Mac Personal Computers which gives them a leg up on Apple.
Had the web been permitted to migrate to HTML5 video delivery, Apple would benefit from the increased content availability which makes them more competitive, but HTML5 as a universal video delivery platform has now effectively been derailed by Google. Google, Adobe, and Microsoft all stand to benefit at the expense of Apple iOS.
[Cross-posted at Digital Society]