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Adobe concedes HTML5 video support for iOS in Flash Media Server


After a heated public battle with Apple over Flash support in iOS devices, Adobe has conceded, announcing support for serving Apple's devices with standard HTML5 video from its Flash Media Server product.

A press release from Adobe announced a "new version of Adobe Flash® Media Server that can now deliver Flash technology to Apple iPhone and iPad devices," causing some confusion among users who know that Apple's devices do not support Flash at all.

In reality, Adobe will simply be adding the ability for its Flash-branded server product to serve standards-based HTML5 video in addition to Flash video.

Adobe later noted that, "with Adobe Flash Media Server 4.5, media publishers now have a single, simple workflow for delivering content using the same stream to Flash-enabled devices or to the Apple iPhone and iPad."

The move to add non-Flash output to its existing Flash development workflow was the solution Steve Jobs recommended Adobe take in April of 2010 when he penned "Thoughts on Flash," which ended the with the comment, "perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind."

Jobs roundly criticized Flash as being a proprietary technology controlled by Adobe, and noted that the majority of Flash content was simply web videos locked in the Flash format, much of which was already available to iOS users in non-Flash versions, such as with YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix and others.

Jobs also called out Adobe's Flash Player as having reliability, security and performance issues, noting that Adobe kept promising a mobile version that it simply could not ship throughout 2009 and into 2010. "We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath," Jobs wrote. "Who knows how it will perform?"

Adobe has since shipped a mobile Flash Player for other platforms, including Android, but it continues to deliver the same performance, security and battery life problems that its desktop version exhibits. Fortunately, the majority of Flash content is simply web video and, as Jobs recognized a year and half ago, most of it is now available via alternative open standards.

Adobe's new support for the open HTTP Live Streaming protocol Apple developed and supports in its iOS mobile devices and on Mac OS X will help developers deeply invested in Flash to reach new audiences of iOS users and further erase the need for the Flash plugin on any platform.

Adobe's new video server tool will not benefit developers who create websites based on Flash or applets or games built in Flash, none of which is accessible from iOS devices or from PCs that have not installed Adobe's Flash Player plugin.