The delivery of video content over the internet has historically been based on a range of proprietary players supported by web browsers via plugins. HTML is the standards-based authoring language for web pages. HTML5, the latest version of HTML, has been designed with multimedia in mind as a single unified markup language and is intended to replace the existing HTML4 and XHTML standards. Whereas most web browsers currently support, via plugins, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight players for media-rich applications, HTML5 could provide a standards-based framework that could supersede these.
However another HTML variant, CE-HTML, has been developed for use in consumer electronics devices including TVs, and is widely used. CE-HTML has been adopted by standards bodies including the Open IPTV Forum, the DLNA and HbbTV.
Frode Hernes, vice-president for TV and connected devices at software provider Opera is an enthusiastic proponent of HTML5, perhaps predictably given Opera’s close involvement in its development. He believes that TV manufacturers could easily migrate to HTML5. Opera recently released the TV Store – a cloud-based app centre that allows developers to create and market apps for multiple platforms based on HTML5. Hernes believes that platforms that currently support CE-HTML will move over time to support HTML5, including HbbTV.
Milya Timergaleyeva, vice-president of marketing at connected TV software provider Oregan Networks, also sees HTML5 as a “very positive development” but points out that, in most cases, HTML4 meets OTT service providers’ requirements. Interest in the Google and Apple platforms is, however, driving interest in HTML5 as those platforms move towards the new format.
There is still some resistance to HTML5, with some participants arguing that it doesn’t work well on low-end processors. Clearly, a standard that can’t be used on mainstream devices will not be a success. It is possible that future versions of HbbTV could incorporate HTML5. However, for now it seems likely that HTML5 will be slow to make the jump to connected TVs as opposed to PCs. “HTML5 is still a work in progress as far as pay TV is concerned as it has not yet been fully defined for the video format, the streaming format and the content protection format,” says Thierry Fautier, senior director of convergence solutions at TV technology specialist Harmonic. “Harmonic is pushing for the W3C to adopt MPE G-4 AVC for video, MPEG DASH for the streaming format and the MPEG Common Encryption for DRM support. With those combinations, the installed base of PCs, connected TVs, game stations, connected Blu-ray, tablets and IP set-tops could be upgraded to this HTML5 version.”