With the epic battle between Apple and Adobe reaching new heights with Steve Jobs' 1,700-word anti-Flash broadside Thursday, where do media companies and stand in this take-no-prisoners struggle?
Of course, both online publishers and ad agencies have squawked about Apple's lack of Flash support for the iPhone, iPod and now especially, the more video-friendly iPad. After all, the Adobe format powers most of their high-end digital content and advertising from music videos to rich media units. But compared to Jobs' high-profile crusade against Flash, the response from the media industry has been rather muted -- grudging acceptance rather than open war.
What gives? In a post today, Forrester analyst James McQuivey says it boils down to one thing: Apple is giving media companies a way to justify charging for content by forcing them to switch to the HTML5 standard it champions over Flash. "In other words, if we can all watch Hulu.com or read an exciting version of Wired.com on our iPad browser using Flash, then we won't buy the apps and advertisers won't fall in love with reaching us again," he argues. But with iTunes and Apple's line of coveted devices providing the proprietary ecosystem that generates both fee-based and advertising revenue-the dreamed-of dual income stream-then you'll hear grumbling from magazine and newspaper publishers and TV networks about switching to HTML5 but little else.
"By creating its own proprietary world, it can get away with unfairly calling Adobe a purveyor of proprietary solutions. Because Apple has a very attractive customer that no media company wants to live without," according to McQuivey.
The higher prices being charged for apps on the iPad than the iPhone-partly because of magazine and other publishers adopting a subscription model on the tablet computer--attest to media companies hopes of making more than digital pennies by partnering with Apple. And the apparent willingness of major brands to cough up $1 million (or up to $10 million at launch) to advertise via the company's new iAd platform suggests marketers are happily forgoing Flash for a bit of Apple marketing magic.
Heck even longtime Apple rival Microsoft has jumped on the HTML5 bandwagon, with the software giant saying this week that it plans to support the Web standard when Internet Explorer 9 comes out. So don't hold your breath waiting for media heavyweights to send an open letter (or video) to Steve Jobs explaining why they're steadfastly sticking with Flash. It got lost in the email.