Apple recently unveiled its new iPad device with a flourish of global PR. iPads will go on sale in the U.S. around the end of March this year, and in other countries in the following months. Press and analysts have had a field day praising and condemning the iPad’s capabilities and features, predicting (depending on who you listen to) that the device will be either a terrible flop or another runaway success for Apple.
My analysis predicts that Apple will sell millions of units of its new “universal media device,” as analyst Ned May of Outsell Inc. describes it, but Apple’s success is not my subject today. Instead, it’s a warning: People who generate content for global markets need to know how the iPad might make their work more difficult.
The problem is caused by a technical gap the new iPad shares with its older siblings, the iPhone and the iPod touch. None of them can use Adobe Flash. (For more on Apple’s deliberate omission of Flash and its consequences, see this New York Times story and this one.)
Thousands of global businesses use Flash movies with captions or voiceover narration as quick, relatively low-cost ways to present marketing videos and user guides over the Web to multilingual audiences. For these businesses and the agencies that work with them, the Flash gap is a growing problem. Instead of Flash movies, millions of iPhone and iPod Touch users see blank white spaces. The iPad boasts a larger screen, with display capabilities that will be attractive for business tasks. But all those millions of Flash animations and interviews and guides and other videos will be invisible. Just blank white spaces, no matter what language you speak. That is the Flash gap, which the iPad will make worse.
The alternative is to deliver videos using HTML5. But not all web browsers work with HTML5. Neither do all devices, especially mobile devices. This means Web video providers need to research what specific devices their target audiences use, and what video technology those devices will support.
So if you provide multilingual video content, you have one more detail to pay attention to when you plan your schedules and budget.