Hot on the heels of the NAB Show and the much-anticipated April 3rd arrival of the iPad, Netflix and broadcast networks ABC and CBS recently announced moves to offer video applications for the iPad.
While CBS is relying on the HTML5-served video that will allow fans to access shows like "Survivor" and others using the iPad's built-in Safari Web browser, ABC appears to have taken a different approach, relying on a standalone app with HTTP-streaming inside Apple's QuickTime library.
ABC's move to launch its own iPad application rather than relying upon a browser-based experience is really a game-changer in the video streaming industry. This gives ABC much more control over the presentation, resulting in an overall better consumer experience. It will enable viewers to browse and stream episodes from shows including "Dancing with the Stars," "20/20," "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in its own iPad application.
Why is this such a big deal? Consider for a moment how the Pandora app changed the lives of avid fans when it launched mobile applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.
Without having to access the Pandora Web site through a Web browser and risk the hiccups of disrupted or down service, Pandora subscribers are able to stream stations using either their mobile device provider's network or WiFi with uninterrupted steaming -- similar to what ABC viewers will be able to experience through its iPad video app.
ABC's move to launch an iPad video app is a sign that content owners are willing to reach out and test different approaches in monetization. Since no ideal system yet exists, vendors like ABC are conforming to Apple's preferred formats, and in some cases using competitive formats to be differentiated in the market so that their content is available on all connected devices. While the iPad does not currently support Adobe Flash, most content providers work with online video platforms that run on Flash. While I am a fan of my recently purchased iPad, what would make it the ideal video streaming device for me, and thousands of others, would be if the iPad supported a wider range of video formats.
While ABC's move to create an iPad video application sets the pace for other vendors in the industry, all are now grappling with the balance of creating and storing copious amounts of video in different file formats to suit each kind of connected device, and the politics around a yet-to-be created universal intelligent server that would prevent the forced convergence around certain platforms -- like those that the iPad, for now, only supports.
It may be that an intelligent server could be an Apache server or possibly an Adobe FMS server. Either way, there seems to be a need for a unified video delivery platform. This theoretical system would configure the stream with metadata passed in by the connected device. The platform could then instruct the connected device -- such as a TV or cell phone -- how to present the video, and what type of video to expect.
All eyes will be watching for the next big studio to launch its iPad application with HTTP streaming. Until then, I am eagerly awaiting the next killer app for video, while I spend some time getting to know my iPad, and reacquaint myself with Web sites only viewable on Flash.