In part 1 of this article, we analyzed the technical problems facing HTML5. In part 2, we’re going to discuss the problems facing HTML5 commercially.
Microsoft, Google and Apple are clearky the 3 giants of the industry at the moment, and it’s really hard to unify them under a single standard.
“Go, go, go! Fire in the hole!” As Apple declares war on Flash, Microsoft seems willing to watch the fire from the other side of the river. As for Google, it supports HTML5 on the one hand, while on the other it also adds support for Flash in Android. Adobe must find a way to take advantage of the conflict between the giants. The future of HTML5 is at stake.
Let’s suppose that even Adobe is not able to do that. The fighting between the 3 giants would probably ruin the future of HTML5. The famous case of OpenGL is the best example. The initial member of this standard was All-Star Games, but the development and spread was far less rapid than Direct3D due to the endless quarrels around profits. The market is almost entirely taken by opponents, and its application restricted in professional areas.
No matter how attractive the market promotion is, user acceptance is the final exam standard. At present, HTML5 is not looking like it’s going to be able to bring fundamental change to the desktop in a short period of time, and so there’s a need for a a coexistent relationship with Flash.
The reason for this is that the user doesn’t care about the technology. What they care for is the effect. There is still a long way to go for HTML5 before it reaches the level of effects realized by Flash, and this restricts the willingness of small websites to use
canvas can’t be popularized then HTML5 is losing a major battle. If the coding problem of video tags can’t be solved, there simply won’t be any way to compete with Flash.
Google, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe are playing cards. Adobe is the banker, and has the best cards. On one hand, the other three want to pull him out of that position. On the other, they don’t want to cooperate with each other. So while establishing an ambiguous relationship with Adobe, Google also has its own plan.
In this game, Adobe dominates the current situation. It seems impossible for HTML5 to take Adobe’s place, because Flash has already taken the ruling position in the traditional desktop market. Even though Flash isn’t perfect, it’s not broken enough to need a replacement. The truth is that the traditional desktop is challenged by new power. There is to be a coexistent period of time between Flash and HTML5 during which the two compete. Adobe has the weapons of Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Fireworks. Webpages cannot be developed without Photoshop, even for the HTML5 webpage. Dreamweaver is the current No.1 choice and canvas applications can be developed usinf Flash CS5.
Flash Player cannot bring direct profit to Adobe, but it symbolizes the standard of the rich media application market. The editor developing Flash is seeing real income. Let’s suppose that in the HTML5 era, the developers still have to choose Adobe products to develop canvas based web interaction. Why then would we need Flash Player? For Adobe, it saves the cost of maintaining a complicated system.
As for Microsoft, it’s a difficult situation. They have the IE card, but they aren’t sure whether it’s a trump card or not. The reason being that IE6 takes a large amount of the market, but the new versions of IE have to compete with former versions. They also have the card of SilverLight, which has a competitive relationship with Flash and HTML5. Support of HTML5 could have a negative effect on SilverLights popularization. Therefore, Microsoft would rather not fully support HTML5. Instead, it will be treated as a supplement of SilverLight.
Apple however has a great plan. They have decided to begin at the mobile platform level, and gradually move to desktop. iPhone is the first successful step. The existence of iPhone proves that Flash is unnecessary in the smart mobile industry. As a matter of fact, the Flash experience in this field is pretty terrible. However, the most important step is iPad. The iPad is almost similar to ordinary computers both in screen size and operation experience. If tablet PCs prove to be comfortable independent of Flash, then why shouldn’t the ordinary PC? If the user gets used to the non-Flash experience of tablet PCs, there’s no hope for Flash anymore. Since iPad came into being, the controversy between Apple and Adobe has escalated, proving the important role of tablet PCs in this battle.
However, is Apple going to realize its dream easily? Apple products perform really well in sales, but aren’t as popular as Microsoft products. The reason being that its culture provides the high-level experience of taste and quality, and that high level experience means a higher price.
Globally speaking, we have developed countries, developing countries and undeveloped countries, where most are without the money to buy Apple products. The people simply can’t pay for the increased quality.
So here comes the question: Is there a company capable of providing a similar experience? What about Microsoft? The answer is no. The reason is that Microsoft provides the service to all people. Its products need to be universal, consistent and not overly expensive. So Microsoft is not motivated to change user experience. They have tried to bring change in Vista, but the result was that XP users got confused and angry.
Maybe, Apple didn’t plan to make iPhones universal at the very beginning. Perhaps focusing on top of the pyramid will guarantee enough income, so does the iPad. It’s not popular enough to challenge the traditional desktop. Users can experience cheaper tablet PCs from other companies, and those tablet PCs will probably support Flash. If things happen in that way, Apple’s plan may end in failure.
As for Google, the result of the war is not too important. As long as users continue using webpages, they doesn’t care whether the web pages are HTML5 or Flash. This doesn’t mean Google is irrelevant though. On the contrary, they are the key factor in this war. Except for YouTube, Google seldom use Flash in their products. Although Flash is functional, it’s not an open product; so Google cannot decide its development direction. An open standard is easier to control for them. Nowadays, the rapid development of Chrome increases Google’s power in HTML5 establishment, but it doesn’t mean they’ll give up on Flash.
Flash is an important tool for Google to restrain Apple. It’s the chip with which Android challenges the iPhone. Last year, Google and Adobe collaborated to put Flash Player plug-ins inside the sandbox within Chrome, which promoted the performance of Flash on safety and resource cost.
From the above analysis, we can conclude that Flash still controls the market of internet rich media. Its fate in mobile platform will be entirely determined by Google’s attitude.
As for HTML5, there will probably be a rapid development that makes it relatively popular in the next 1 to 3 years. It won’t take the place of Flash though. Instead, they’ll be coexistent for a period of time. Considering of the conflicts among the giants, there isn’t much hope for HTML5. It took so long for browsers to accept the current standard, and it’s going to take a much longer time for them to accept new ones. In this transitional era of Flash to HTML5, there is still a long way to go.