Let’s start our whirlwind tour of the new media landscape with the elephant in the room, HTML5. Despite the hoopla, this standard is far from standard. The spec won’t be finalized until 2013 and browser support is uneven, to say the least. As Jan Ozer succinctly put it, Enough With HTML5 Already. Flash is still the most sensible platform for video delivery to the desktop today, though of course iOS devices do require HTML5. So for the foreseeable future, we’re living in a dual world where there is really no choice but to support both platforms.
But the enormous popularity of Apple mobile devices has delivered a perhaps mortal blow to Flash in the long run. Several contenders have emerged to provide Flash-like animation in an HTML5 setting, notably Adobe Edge and Google Swiffy. The writing’s on the wall: Adobe has begun repositioning Flash as a tool for 3D gaming development. It announced in November that it has abandoned development of Flash on mobile devices.
The incredible outpouring of emotion over Steve Jobs’ death projected our collective angst not just about the future of Apple and our beloved gadgets, but perhaps about the future of innovation in America. We need mythic heroes like Jobs to reassure us that our nation need not be in decline, that we can innovate ourselves back to greatness. The next chapter is being written and the stakes could not be higher — for you and me, but more so for our kids. Sermon over.
If you don’t have a mobile version of your website, 2012 is the year you need to get one. Did you know that mobile access to the Internet exceeded desktop access for the first time … in 2008? Up to now, mobile websites have been their own special animal, but an emerging concept called One Web enables a single set of code to deliver the proper user experience to any device, from the largest desktop browser down to the tiniest mobile screen.
Social media is always fun to talk about, especially if you want to start an argument. We’ve seen some novel applications recently, such as the Twitter-based hedge fund that beat the stock market. Speaking of Twitter, a new record was set during the women’s world cup soccer finals — over 7,000 tweets per second. That’s a lot of tweeting. Location based services have really taken off too; Foursquare now has over 10 million users. And of course, much has been said about Google and its latest attempt to break into the social networking world, Google +. Early adopters love the technology but Google + has a long way to go before developing a critical mass that can challenge Facebook. Even more interesting is the recently-disclosed Google X, a clandestine lab that is working on 100 long-shot ideas, including an elevator to outer space. You gotta love those guys.
Streaming video is changing the face of TV, and it’s being driven by youngsters. Boxee’s Andrew Kippen put it this way: “I think there is this generational shift of people who’ve had the Internet before they had sex.” They’d rather pay for premium online content a la carte than be forced to buy a bundle from the cable company. So now we’re seeing headlines like “Will Netflix and Hulu kill cable TV?” On the other hand, Netflix learned the hard way how to lose 800,000 customers almost overnight with the ill-fated decision to split their DVD and streaming services. Meanwhile, Amazon and NBC Universal have announced a streaming deal. So it’s really about convenience, and serving the customer how they liked to be served. The plethora of delivery options is only going to increase.
Speaking of streaming video, live webcasting has seen some interesting applications lately, like the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ “virtual visits.” A somewhat more joyous event, the Royal Wedding, was 2011’s biggest live webcast. YouTube generated 72 million live streams to 188 countries around the world. On the corporate level, it’s now possible to deliver a network-level experience to webcast viewers around the globe.
And it’s not just video that’s being streamed. Pandora is available as an option this year from ten car makers. If you have a smartphone with 3G and Bluetooth, you already have all you need. Good luck with that, SiriusXM!
So you love that 55″ HD beauty sitting in your living room? You may or may not be pleased to know that Sharp is developing an LCD with sixteen times the resolution of HDTV: A whopping 7,680 x 4,320 pixels. The new broadcast standard is called Super Hi-Vision and it’s being pioneered by NHK, the Japanese public broadcast company. Don’t worry, your HDTV won’t be obsolete any time soon. But the day will certainly come when HD looks … so SD.
ARRI, Panavision and Aaton all ceased production of film cameras last year. And with the impending demise of Kodak, history books may declare 2011 the year that film officially died. I miss film, but I love digital more than I miss film. A new generation of large, single sensor cameras is raising the bar on image acquisition. Two new 4k cinema cameras from Canon were inspired by the hugely successful 5D Mark II still camera, and RED unveiled the 4k Scarlet.
Apple ruffled a lot of feathers in the professional post community with its latest update to Final Cut Pro, FCP X. In some ways it was a step backward. A quick 10.1 update addressed some of the biggest issues but there are still a lot of folks now reconsidering Avid and Adobe Premiere. Meanwhile online editing is becoming a reality, with Quantel’s QTube leading the way. Take a look at those old Beta SP tape decks in your edit suite. Chances are they need a good dusting off. The transition to a tapeless world is essentially complete. The production workflow is IT-based these days, and that’s a really good thing.
I’ve said this before, but maybe it’s time to find a new term for “new media,” since that was coined back in the waning days of analog, when you were rocking out to Milli Vanilli. No doubt many of the things in this story would have seemed like science fiction back then. So now you have a bad case of Bieber Fever and “New Media,” or whatever you want to call it, has come an astonishingly long way in a very short time. What does it all mean? As Dan Coughlin put it, “The world has evolved from the Stone Age to the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age to the Information Age to the Creativity Age.” Your creative palette have never been more vibrant, and your horizons are limited not so much by the tools you use, but by your aspirations and the limits of your imagination. Hallelujah!