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HTML5, the iPad, and the iPhone: What You Need to Know

Have questions about HTML5 video? You’re not alone. StreamingMedia.com recently hosted a webinar on the topic led by Jeff Whatcott, senior vice president of global marketing at Brightcove (the event was sponsored by Brightcove), and nearly 1,000 people attended. The entire event is archived here (registration is free), but if you want something you can skim, here are the highlights.

The webinar was titled HTML5 Readiness, and sought to fill in the gaps for professionals who had heard the buzz on HTML5 video, but still had a lot of questions. Whatcott explained what HTML5 video is, showed how some companies are using it, and gave recommendations for creating an HTML5 strategy.

HTML5, Whatcott explained, is the successor to the current HTML standard, one that started as a renegade project by a group that included Apple, Mozilla, Google, Opera, and others. The central idea was to allow video and audio to play on websites without plug-ins.

We’re currently at the beginning of the HTML5 cycle, and only 38 percent of browsers support it. That means no content creator can afford to serve only HTML5 video, but needs to create a mixed format delivery system where users get the video in Flash or Silverlight if their browser isn’t HTML5-compatible.

While HTML5′s video tag is enjoying all the attention, the standard also includes audio and canvas tags, for delivering audio and dynamic images without plug-ins.

One of the standard’s shortcomings is that it doesn’t specify one format to use with it. That means there are a variety of choices, two of which enjoy major support. Providers can serve H.264 video created with the MPEG4 codec, WebM video made with the VP8 codec, or Ogg Theora video. H.264 and WebM offer better video quality, Whatcott said, and WebM is open source.

The area has gotten complicated, since Apple backs the H.264 format and Google backs WebM in its Chrome browser (which soon won’t support H.264 video). Whatcott sees the formats being used as weapons in a format battle, and doesn’t want customers to become casualties.

That fragmentation means that content providers can’t choose just one format when delivering HTML5 video, but need to stream two formats. The real beneficiary of this Adobe’s Flash video format, Whatcott says. If HTML5 seems too complicated, people will throw up their hands and just go with a system that works.

While that’s true of serving desktop viewers, HTML5 is most relevant now for reaching mobile devices. Providers who want to reach the influential iOS demographic need to stream H.264 video. Android devices support H.264 video, but not in all builds.

For those looking for more help with HTML5 video, Whatcott recommended this collection of links, which he put together and continues to maintain.

When it came time for questions, webinar attendees showed that they were concerned about the limits of HTML5 video. They asked about adaptive bitrate streaming (HTML5 video doesn’t offer it; the most it can do is one bandwidth check just before playback), analytics (tools aren’t as rich as with Flash video), and live streaming (it’s not supported in HTML5 video). They also asked about DRM and closed captioning, neither of which are available in HTML5 video.

For a more in-depth look at HTML5 video, check out the entire hour-long webinar for yourself. It’s a great introduction if you’re starting to think about an HTML5 delivery strategy.

Courtesy of SteamingMedia.com