Adobe on “HTML5”

The current WhatWG proposals called “HTML 5” have been stirring up a lot of polarizing speech lately… articles with Flash-killer headlines lead to street-level fracases.

It’s hard for Adobe to have an official opinion on whatever this consortium of minority browser vendors chooses to do… seeing what the final agreement turns out to be, and how it is eventually manifested in the world, both are prerequisites for practical tool-making.

Still, I’m glad that an analyst asked a question about it at the quarterly financial call. Here’s what Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen had to say, from the transcript at Seeking Alpha:

David Hilal – Friedman, Billings, Ramsey

Okay, and then Shantanu, maybe a bigger picture question but as we read and learn more and more about HTML 5, I wanted to understand in your view both the opportunity and threat that that may present to Adobe.

Shantanu Narayen

Sure. So I mean, to the extent that an improved HTML standard accelerates innovation and consistent reach for web content, we’re very supportive and clearly from the perspective of our tools, we will support the creation and management of HTML content to the level that they want.

I think it speaks increasingly to the realization that rich Internet applications and delivering engaging experiences is increasingly important to all of our customers. I think the challenge for HTLM 5 will continue to be how do you get a consistent display of HTML 5 across browsers. And when you think about when the rollout plans that are currently being talked about, they feel like it might be a decade before HTML 5 sees standardization across the number of browsers that are going to be out there.

So clearly supportive in terms of making sure as HTML 5 is evolving that we will support it in our web authoring tools but from the perspective of continuing to drive Flash and innovation around Flash and rich Internet applications, we still think that actually the fragmentation of browsers makes Flash even more important rather than less important.

David Hilal – Friedman, Billings, Ramsey

Great. Thank you.

Adobe’s about communicating your ideas — publishing to various channels — not just about Flash. Dreamweaver, ColdFusion and the imaging tools all benefit from an increase in HTML. Flash is a strong bet for emerging platforms — we really do need the ability to predictably deploy advanced capability across a range of device brands and browser brands — but Adobe profits from easing communication in general.

I’m increasingly uncomfortable with calling the WhatWG proposals “HTML 5” though, and particularly when it’s used in opposition to successful realworld capabilities of today. When ECMAScript 4 was in discussion there weren’t magazine headlines about how untyped variables were now evil. What counts is not a press release, but a realworld deliverable. De jure is nice, and potential de jure is also interesting, but de facto capability determines what you can actually do for real audiences.

But Shantanu’s last point in there really resonates with me… this whole “HTML5” campaign will likely benefit Flash, because few remain who oppose the idea that “experience matters”. Things are quite a bit different than five years ago. Silverlight’s launch helped boost the popularity of Flash… iPhone helped to radically increase the number of phones with Flash support… the “HTML5” publicity helps marginalize those few who still argue that images, animation, audio/video and rich interactivity have no place on the web. Flash will be able to deliver on those heightened expectations, regardless of what each separate browser engine does.

Update Tue June 23: I’m closing off comments on this entry, for two reasons: (a) latter comments are repetitious and off-topic, with people seeking any reason to reject the neutral info presented above; and (b) one Mac-oriented blogger who attracts an abusive crowd has pointed this link out, and I’m not keen on hosting drive-by ranters.