Microsoft Loves HTML5, But Says Flash Still Important

Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer team, earlier this week said Internet Explorer 9 will support only the H.264 standard for playback of HTML5 video.

In a blog post earlier this week, Hachamovitch cited the broad hardware support that exists for H.264 as a motivating factor behind Microsoft's decision. "The future of the web is HTML5," he said.

Ambiguity around intellectual property rights also played a role in the decision, Hachamovitch suggested. As noted by Cnet, this apparently means that Microsoft isn't going to support the open source Ogg Theora codec, the chief rival to H.264.

"Today, intellectual property rights for H.264 are broadly available through a well-defined program managed by MPEG LA. The rights to other codecs are often less clear," Hachamovitch said in the blog post.

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Microsoft released a developer preview of IE9 at its Mix conference in March, but the final product isn't expected to arrive until sometime next year. Likewise, HTML5 isn't expected to be finalized for several years, although some of its features are available for use today.

Developers that have built businesses around Flash and Silverlight don't think Microsoft and Apple's HTML5 lovefest makes much sense.

"What is crazy is that HTML5 doesn't exist, but Apple and Microsoft are going to create an artificial market for it," said Dave Meeker, director of emerging media and co-director of Roundarch Labs, a Chicago-based Web development firm. "Then we will have to respond by building the tools and frameworks that are missing. It is going to be really hard to build for something that isn't even supported yet."

The majority of today's Web video is Flash-based, which despite its security, reliability and performance issues is still the most convenient for consumers, Hachamovitch said in the blog post. "Despite these issues, Flash remains an important part of delivering a good consumer experience on today's web," he said.

However, Meeker sees major obstacles to HTML5. To fully support HTML5, companies will have to make OS and hardware upgrades to get full GPU support from the browser. What's more, HTML5 only works in Apple's proprietary products. All of this could ultimately benefit Silverlight, according to Meeker.

"I think Silverlight may come out the winner in all of this since it can do cross platform, it runs on the desktop, and Microsoft will have a mobile ecosystem for it," Meeker said.