Video to the Handheld – Today vs. Tomorrow

If you were around in 1996 you remember the “browser wars”! It was the web battle of the decade: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer vs Netscape Navigator… vs Opera… vs AOL’s version of IE… vs Safari… It was a mess. If you were doing any HTML back in those days, you remember having to build 2 or 3 versions of the same website to accommodate everyone.

We’ll, things haven’t changed all that much really – we still have a bunch of different browsers to support – but we’ve become more efficient at dealing with the different flavors. Websites-in-a-box such as Joomla and WordPress have created cross-browser friendly websites that are very easy to manage.

So here we are – again – with video. The flavors du jour: Flash video (FLV), Windows Media Video (WMV), Quicktime (mov) and Real (rm). These different video types don’t play well together – each needs a different player (remember browser), so if you have a file that works on one player it typically won’t work on the other.

Same goes for the various handheld devices when it comes to video: Blackberry, iPhone, iTouch, iPod, Windows Mobile – each supports a different type of video file. Flash is supported on some units, and not on others.

So what does this mean today if you’d like to get your video out to the handheld devices? It means you need to strategically target a specific device (or set of devices) and prepare your video files specifically for that type of device. For instance, if you want to support 10 devices, you’ll need an understanding of the video formats for each. You should prepare a set of test files to make sure the video plays on each device correctly. Finally, transcode each file into the various formats you’ll need for the effort.

The good news is the growing popularity of the H.264 codec. With any luck, the Moving Picture Experts Group will help establish a more standard form of video that will help homogenize the web-video industry and various platforms. Of course, as in the case of Joomla and WordPress, we’ll come up with a “work-around” for the issue that makes it seamless to broadcast our programming to the various handheld devices – eventually.

Today? Its a time consuming game of hunt and peck to get your video onto the various handheld devices. Tomorrow? I have no doubt we’ll be able to quickly and easily target 99% of the devices on the market with a quick, convenient workflow. Innovation will drive this as publishers find ways of generating revenues by delivering to the handheld.


Posted by Chuck Ebbets   @   9 November 2009

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