On the surface, nothing. Some might argue that QuickTime is already the answer; Flash and Silverlight are finally catching up. Further, if Apple can convince Google’s YouTube to re-encode their video inventory in QuickTime’s primary codec H.264/AVC and if the new Flash player will also feature the industry standard H.264, why bother with anything else?
Because more than just video is at stake here. Surely, both Silverlight and the latest Flash offer high-resolution video, but they also deliver (rich media) applications.
Adobe, for example, can deliver the core of a reasonably non-trivial application targeting Flash runtime intact across platforms to web browsers (Flex), desktop (AIR) and even mobile devices (Flash Lite). Ditto, eventually, for Silverlight and JavaFX.
This new breed of network-aware platforms are capable of interacting with remote application servers and databases, parsing and emitting XML, crunching client-side scripts, rendering complex multimedia layouts, running animations, displaying vector graphics and overlaid videos, using sophisticated interface controls and pretty much anything desktop applications are able to do.
It is said that Adobe bought Macromedia to acquire Flash, whose runtime is likely the most ubiquitous plugin on the web. Fairly effortless to upgrade, the Flash runtime is a tremendous asset for Adobe and Flash/Flex/AIR developers to distribute their rich media applications.
Indeed the absence of Flash on the iPhone has been one of its most talked about shortcomings. Everyone expects Flash to arrive soon. Walt Mossberg at All Things Digital had said in July that the iPhone Flash plugin was imminent:
Apple says it plans to add that plug-in through an early software update, which I am guessing will occur within the next couple of months.
Yet four months and a couple of updates later, there’s no Flash support. Nor any support for Silverlight or JavaFX on any of Apple’s post-PC devices: AppleTV, iPhone and iPod touch. Is there more than the current absence of an SDK involved here? Mere Apple secrecy? NIMBY? Is Apple satisfied by merely having them on Mac OS X and not worried about its post-PC devices? Or does Apple have something up its corporate sleeve to counter this tsunami of powerful cross-platform runtimes?
The answer is in “Runtime wars (2): Apple’s answer to Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX,” here tomorrow.
A longer discussion on Core Animation and its significance is in:
What’s in Leopard for Designers (1): Core Animation