Whatever you may think about the Apple-Adobe battle over Flash on the iPad, it’s clear that Apple’s not going to move on the matter. And now CBS.com is trialling Web videos in iPad-friendly HTML5 format.
The guys at TheOtherMac blog noted this first, and then MacRumors did some digging, and found out exactly what’s going on. Basically CBS’s Web site suddenly gained a few “iPad – test” video links among its more usual Flash-based online content. Clicking on these using a “normal” device like a laptop or PC just took you to a regular CBS-style video–using the same core Flash technology that powers much of the current video footage online.
But the truth is revealed if you spoof your browser to appear as if it’s an iPad Safari version, or access the relevant pages through the iPad SDK, CBS’s secrets pop up. The pages are incomplete, and the video playback simply wont work, indicating its still under development. But the video is being transmitted using HTML5 format rather than Flash, which is revealed when you peep at the site’s CSS code–HTML5-specific and Webkit references are dotted throughout. This is precisely the tech needed to make the things work on the iPad.
We know that Google’s been trying a few HTML5 experiments itself for YouTube, though not quite as clearly targeted at the iPad as this new CBS move. Which makes the discovery somewhat important: A major network is going to the trouble of building iPad-specific versions of its online presence. CBS clearly believes that the iPad is going to be a success, that there will be enough user interest in the device that fans of CBS TV shows will drive significant iPad-based traffic to CBS’s site. This is not a move to be taken lightly–there’s some small expense involved in making the change-over, for a start–even while the re-coded site would be compatible with the next-gen HTML5 system, which will eventually be the tech behind how most sites are coded. We can certainly expect other big online content players to think about doing the same thing. Our stopwatch is already counting until the next move like this hits the headlines.