Five years ago, I didn’t think that watching videos on small mobile devices would become very popular. I was wrong! After using an iPhone for a year and a half, I find that I watch more web videos on my phone than I do sitting at my desk in front of a computer. I’d rather lean back and watch a video than lean forward. It is a matter of convenience, portability, and comfort.
Management Embraces Smart Phones
I also notice that many of the managers and decision-makers I work with are frequently checking their emails and conducting business over the web on their smart phones. Once they read an email on their phone, they often don’t read it again on their desktop computer. If the email includes a link to a video, they may attempt to play it on their smart phone while it still has their attention. If a marketing video doesn’t play during this window of opportunity, they may never look at it.
Apple vs. Adobe
Unfortunately, Apple does not permit its iPhones and iPads to play Flash videos. Currently, most web videos are encoded in the Adobe Flash format and work great for desktop computer viewing. Apple is pushing for a newer technology called HTML5 that takes the dependency of web video away from the Adobe Flash player, and puts it more in the hands of application developers.
However, HTML5 is not yet ready for prime time. Even when it is ready, it may take years for businesses to create HTML5 versions of their existing Flash web videos to be playable on Apple’s mobile devices. So, Flash encoded web videos will still be around for the foreseeable future. Most industry experts do not expect Apple to ever allow Flash videos to play on these devices. However, the competition is supporting Flash videos.
Android Smart Phones Play Flash Videos
Android smart phones use a free and open operating system provided by Google and are advertised to support Flash videos. We are seeing a repeat episode of open vs. closed operating systems similar to the Apple vs. PC wars that began in the 1980s.
Currently the adoption rate of Android phones, sold by many manufacturers, outstrips the iPhone. So, how well do the Android smart phones play Flash videos?
To test this, I went to my local Costco and dialed-in some Flash videos from my website to see how well they play on the latest Android powered devices. I tested a Motorola Droid X™ and a small tablet− the Samsung Galaxy Tab.™ Both devices played Flash very well over the wireless connection at Costco. I did not test video playback at Costco over a 3G network.
I also had a chance to play a Flash video over the 3G network on a friend’s Android phone (Samsung 4G) while we were taking a hike. The Flash video was choppy. However, when I played the same video over the 3G network off of YouTube’s servers, it played smoothly. The quality was lower because YouTube “intelligently degrades” the quality of its videos when the network connection is slow.
A Work-around Solution
Meanwhile, there is a way to get your videos to play on the iPhone. Six months ago, all of the videos on my web site were encoded in Flash and would not play on the iPhone. Recently, I placed almost all my public web videos on YouTube and embedded them in web pages on my website. YouTube automatically makes several encoded versions for each video including one that plays on the iPhone and probably every future smart phone that will play videos.
Now, when someone with an iPhone clicks on a video link to my web site YouTube knows that the request was made by an iPhone and delivers an iPhone compatible version (probably in the h.264 format) and the video plays! If the viewer’s phone has a temporarily slow wireless connection, YouTube reduces the quality of the video so that it still plays. When someone using a desktop computer clicks on the same video link, YouTube sends a different Flash encoded version to their PC. YouTube does all of this for free!
Smart phones and tablet computers are evolving very rapidly. My recommendation is that you test the video features you want at the store where you purchase the phone. One option is to test the smart phone at my website at bukaymedia.com and compare how well it plays Flash and YouTube videos.
Smart phones and tablet computers are likely to replace a large percentage of laptop computers during the next few years. In your training and marketing video communication strategy, it is worthwhile to consider posting a version of your public videos on YouTube (or other video hosting services that support the h.264 option). These videos can be embedded into your web site so the viewer does not leave your website to watch them.
Also, during this period of “video player wars” it is a good idea to have the option to play the video in Flash. This strategy will increase your video exposure to the rapidly growing audience of people who use smart phones.
From what I saw at Costco, I think I would be very happy to own a Droid X smart phone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab! Although I love my iPhone, I will consider switching to an Android phone with Verizon when it comes time to renew my iPhone contract with AT&T.
Image source: Istockphoto
Michael Bukay, MS has over 30 years experience in the operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of high purity water systems in the biotech, semiconductor, and power industries; and 9 years of digital filmmaking experience. His company specializes in providing industrial and commercial video communication services.