Friday, February 12, 2010

The iPad, Adobe and Hulu

One of the biggest criticisms of Apple's iPad is the lack of Flash in the mobile Safari browser. This complaint, which has been around since the 1st generation iPhone, hasn't stopped Apple from selling 70 million iPhone/iPod Touch devices. Recently, Adobe used the fact that it received 7 million requests - in December - to download Flash from iPhone OS devices. While this may seem like a large number, it only accounts for 10% of the devices visiting a site with Flash and trying to download the appropriate plugin. I'm not sure that 7 million number is as significant as Adobe thinks it is.

When objecting to the lack of Flash, most blogs and pundits point to the inability to watch content from Hulu. Hulu has in fact become the rallying cry for iPad-bashers. I agree Hulu is a great site for watching high-quality content from network television and would be a killer app for the iPad. As the story below points out, getting content from Hulu onto the iPad may not be as technically challenging as it may seem. By the time the iPad ships, I suspect that Hulu will have either modified their site to iPad-friendly or will launch a dedicated iPhone/iPad app.

Hulu Could Still Launch On The iPad
Putting Hulu on the iPad boils down to a business decision, not a technical one. Getting Hulu to work on the iPad would not take as much work as some might expect. The biggest challenge to getting a large video library to play on the iPad (or iPhone) is to convert the underlying video files to the H.264 standard. Fortunately for Hulu, its videos are already encoded in H.264 and have been since the summer of 2008. So it doesn’t have to go back and re-encode all of its videos. But on the front-end, it would have to create a non-Flash player (Flash plays videos encoded in H.264 as does the Quicktime player on the iPad and iPhone).

Getting Hulu’s videos to play on the iPad is not that big a deal. They could just do what YouTube does and pop open the Quicktime player when a viewer tries to click on a video in their browser. But making people switch applications every time they want to watch a video isn’t the best experience. Hulu could rectify that in two ways: build a custom iPad/iPhone app with its own player, or rewrite its site in Javascript for the iPad/iPhone browser.

1 comment:

Bruce Princeton said...

My initial reaction when I saw the Apple iPad was confusion. What functionality does this device offer over and above the Apple iPhone? And what market is Apple aiming this device at?


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