Over the past six or twelve months it’s become blisteringly clear that we are in the midst of a huge shift to viewing online video on mobile devices. This might primarily be in the consumer space, but I was curious about the implications in the world of business video and I thought who better to ask than vzaar’s CTO Adrian Sevitz and our video player developer Jon Prince.
In Q4 over a third of all online video plays were on tablets or phones. “But,” Adrian observed, “you have to remember when it comes to entertainment, broadcast TV is still the core platform, with ten times the people still viewing them the old fashioned way.
Having said that, there is no doubt that outside the workplace where people have their PCs ‘always on’ in front of them, phones and tablets are replacing PCs as the devices on which they view video online.”
“We’ve become conditioned to things being immediate,” Jon said. “If we want to see something or look something up, we reach for the phone or tablet that we have to hand. No-one today is going to go and switch their PC on to do a simple task.”
But what about on the move? It seems to me that user behavior is switching. Previously I wouldn’t watch a longer video unless I knew I was going to be sitting down in front of a screen for a good while, whereas today I know I’m not going to be sitting still for any length of time, so I’ll start watching on a device I can wander around with. We’ve seen big growth in Tablet users, in particular, watching longer videos online – Tablet users watch more 30-60 minute on-line videos than any other device, including TVs.
“Yeah, but connectivity remains a real issue,” said Jon who says many people can’t realistically watch online video on their daily commute. “Podcasts and services like iPlayer remain valuable because the video is downloaded before you leave the house, and if connectivity is low (e.g. on a train journey) you’re not waiting for your device to constantly reconnect.”
Adrian’s view? “We need to think in terms of viewer behavior, not device. If you are driving, you may enjoy audio, but you certainly don’t appreciate video. On a 20-40 minute commute you can appreciate a half-hour comedy show, if you’re on an inter-city journey your alternative may be a book. If you go underground you are going to need downloaded content. If you’re in a crowded commuter train, or stop for a coffee on your walk into work, you may just be able to catch some highlights on your phone.”
When asked what the design and technical knock-on effects of all this are, Jon stresses two big factors that have dominated development in the recent past. “The technology environments in the Mobile world have been in flux and this has created big complexities for developers and customer support. But there are now signs that things are consolidating around more standard Android and iOS. And second, all video developers have been balancing their efforts between Flash and HTML5 – at vzaar we have many subscribers with serious security requirements and so Flash has continued to be really important, but you can now see we are at the tipping point and that HTML5 will dominate in the future.”
“What I see right now is that the iFrame is becoming pervasive,” Adrian added. “Through the iFrame we can control what’s happening within the video box, independently of what’s going on outside. We can understand what the surrounding environment is and then make decisions about what happens inside the iFrame. When the technology base shifts there is always a period where the big questions are the “does it play on these devices” stuff. But we’re beyond that now. Now we’re back to interacting with the environment – its a combined design and development challenge – and design is right back at the forefront.”
“As online video viewing becomes pervasive,” Adrian concluded, “the business challenges are twofold. With respect to your own productivity, how do you distinguish between viewing which enhances learning and productivity from stuff that just distracts employees from their jobs. And second, in terms of marketing to clients, as video comes to fill all the available space how do we cut through the ‘white noise’ and get our messages across to potentially valuable customers. These are not new questions – maybe the growth in mobile video consumption is making the answers harder.”
Need mobile video? Find out more about how vzaar ensures your videos playback on every device – web, tablet & mobile here.