Brightcove Attempts to Straddle Front Line in Mobile Video Wars

Brightcove has a problem. The Cambridge, MA-based startup’s Brightcove 4 video hosting platform, which hundreds of publishers use to distribute and monetize Web video on desktop and laptop PCs, was built around Adobe’s Flash Player. But more and more people want to watch videos on their smartphones, and Flash videos won’t play on most mobile devices. Moreover, Adobe competitors like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are working to sideline Flash in favor of their own competing video formats, such as MPEG-4/H.264 and VC-1. Of particular concern to video publishers (and many consumers) is Apple’s stubborn refusal to allow the Flash Player or Flash-driven applications to run on the iPhone, the iPod Touch, or the upcoming iPad, which can only display H.264 videos.

Brightcove has long been seen as part of the Adobe camp—indeed, founder Jeremy Allaire helped to create the Flash format when he was at Macromedia, which became part of Adobe in 2005. But Brightcove’s customers aren’t wedded to Flash: they just want to make their videos available to as large an audience as possible. During the era of Flash’s ascendancy, going with Brightcove’s platform, which wraps advertising and other advanced features around basic Flash videos, was a good way to do that. But to keep its customers, Brightcove will need to find a way to make their content mobile-ready, and to shield them from all the shrapnel in the video standards war.

That’s part of the intention behind Brightcove’s announcement this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it’s working on software that will make it easier for publishers to deliver Flash video to mobile devices—and to make money doing so. Technically, what Brightcove unveiled is a software package called “Brightcove Mobile Experience for Adobe Flash Player 10.1.” It’s a version of Brightcove’s well-known video player that runs on top of the forthcoming Flash Player 10.1, which will be the first version of Adobe’s platform built to work well on smartphones and netbooks as well as laptops and desktops PCs.

As Jeff Whatcott, senior vice president of marketing at Brightcove, explained to me in a briefing before the Barcelona conference, that means the video content published by Brightcove customers will soon be accessible to users of Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Palm, and Nokia (Symbian) mobile devices—all of the leading smartphones except … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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