I’ve always been a big fan of Internet video, and a sucker for good quality. This might have something to do with my refusal to own a television set. I don’t really like the idea of watching a television per se. And, now that the few shows I do enjoy are offered in the iTunes Music Store anyway, my laptop seems sufficient. Especially when connected to our stereo system.
But Apple’s QuickTime video formats are by no means the most popular format on the Internet. Six months ago, everyone was proclaiming a sort of Flash renaissance. The reason being that the Flash player is so thoroughly deployed that it makes an excellent platform for video. It’s more common than Windows Media, QuickTime, Real Media, or any other format that you can name. The only problem is its quality.
The best known example, and the reason of this proclaimed renaissance, is YouTube. Almost anyone with a computer and Internet access can watch them… but even therein, we find some issues. You can’t watch YouTube on a mobile phone or set-top box. So when Apple announced last week that they were bringing YouTube to the Apple TV, I initially wondered if they were somehow putting Flash video on the Apple TV. Very doubtful, since Apple’s media strategy revolves around QuickTime and its preferred compression formats, like AAC for audio and H.264 for video. These formats are capable of extremely good quality, leaving Flash video in the dust.
And apparently the quality of YouTube on Apple TV will indeed be amazing, because it turns out that Apple struck a deal with Google (owners of YouTube) to recompress all of their videos in the H.264 format, which surely has Apple smiling. That means that the YouTube videos you see on the Apple TV will be better quality than the videos you see on the YouTube website!
So it looks as though Apple has arranged for themselves a way around Flash video entirely. And I’m glad, because H.264 is a much better format. Maybe Flash won’t have that “edge” for long after all.