VentureBeat’s Anthony Ha moderates a panel on the future of HTML and Flash on the second day of their MobileBeat Conference, held at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel.
The panel includes Adobe’s Anup Murarka, Mochi Media’s Josh Larson (Mochi Media works with game developers to help them develop and distribute their browser based games) and Abraham Elias, CEO of Sencha, which works with 150,000 companies and has over a million developers.
“The mobile web will continue to play a central role and is an important aspect of the overall user experience,” says Anup. “HTML5 is a great update to HTML4. Let’s remember: Flash and Adobe have lived together for a long time. We expect to see features move from Flash into the standards community but it’s going to take time to get consistency. It’s up to us to continue to add capabilities – interactivity, expression, content protection, and more. We need to continue to find ways to add value so that web developers can continue to create really great content. If they want to go deeper, they’ll use Flash.”
Anthony brings up cross platform versus the Apple world: “you talk about the leverage between Flash and the application world. It’s all about cross platform, it’s not just about the iPhone and iPad. Is not being able to get onto the iPad not a deal breaker?”
Anup reminds the audience that the market is massive AND global. “Developers worry about a lot of platforms – Symbian, Nokia, Android, Nokia and other platforms if they’re based outside North America. We have to remember that iPod and iPad are not the only devices out there, particularly when you look at the needs of worldwide developers.”
Josh says, “it’s been a big leap for those who have spent so much time on the Flash platform to migrate. For developers to have an environment where they can publish cross-platform, this is the holy grail.
Who doesn’t want to publish on multiple platforms? Josh brings up examples and survey results from their developer community. About a third of their community said they want to experiment on the iPhone. The ideal case is to build IP that can move across multiple categories.
Anup pipes in, “a few years ago, developers were asking about the pros and cons of developing for mobile, but that doesn’t happen today. Now, they’re asking for help on distribution. Whatever a developer needs to be expressive and engage their audience is what matters. For us, it’s about enabling that 3+ million Flash developers to reach the broadest audience as possible – regardless of what the device is.”
“You have to ask, ‘how do I take the existing skillset we have and our developers have and leverage that on the web and on mobile?’ How do you help your developers create the same experience on the web as they do with native apps?” asks Elias.
Someone from the audience asks the panel, “how are we going to build for apps if they’re browser-based rather than native apps?” Elias responds first, “you can distribute through an app store and let the app store handle it. You can use a third party service that will distribute and handle payment for you or a site that simply handles billing so you don’t have to deal with it.”
And, these services will grow and get better. Anup adds that we’re going to see a lot more billing options available in the near future. They may not be as seamless for the end-user initially, but new vendors are going to create a more seamless experience over time. “They are coming,” he says.
On Adobe’s plans to reduce the issue Flash has of draining the performance on mobile devices. Anup says, “we’ve been working hard with companies for a few years to optimize flash on various platforms. We’re now seeing significant performance improvement, such as 3 hours of streaming video playback. Flash is starting to use hardware more efficiently.
He adds, “on distributing content on HTML 5, companies will need to learn how to protect content and distribute it across a massive audience. There will be issues of scalability and content protection as well as service. I don’t think that entire industries will switch over without thinking about all the issues they’ll face over the long haul.