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Steve Jobs’ ban of Adobe’s Flash technology for videos, animations and interactive mini-applications from his iPhone and iPad computers is one of the most widely controversial decisions the Apple founder has made. In an attempt to prove that Flash isn’t necessary, Apple has posted a set of seven demo pages that show off the power of HTML5, the emerging new standard for Web content that will run, theoretically, in any browser on any device.

The demos require you to use Apple’s Safari browser.  (Update: See the comments below this post for instructions on running the demos in Chrome.) This seems counter to the core premise that other browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Opera — are able to display HTML5 content. But if you’re willing to install Safari on a PC, you can see most of the technical tricks on display in these pages. Some features only work on a Mac.

  • Video — HTML5 lets you resize the video while it’s still playing, rather than needing to redraw a new window. You can also tilt the viewing angle, and apply a “mask” that, in the demo, shows the video playing inside the letters TRON (the video is a trailer for upcoming movie Tron Legacy.)
  • Typography — HTML5 can change the size, color, and font of text in a browser window. It can adjust the transparency of text, the angle at which it’s written, and adjust both vertical (leading) and horizontal (tracking) alignment of letters. Apple’s demo also adds a shadow that can be turned on and off.
  • Gallery — Apple’s demo manipulates a set of photos on the fly. They fly into position onscreen in five different formations from a straightforward grid to a corny 3D wheel.
  • Audio — You probably won’t be surprised to learn that HTML5 pages can included embedded audio clips with player buttons to control them.
  • 360 Degrees — This one’s impressive. You can rotate a photo of three iPhones to view them from any angle. Yes, it’s been done before, but what counts is that it runs smoothly, rather than sputtering as you spin it.
  • VR — Apple presumes you know that VR stands for virtual reality. It’s like the 360 Degree demo, with more flexibility. You can move around inside the photo of an Apple Store.

If Jobs gets his way, Web developers will abandon Flash and use these HTML-based tricks instead. He’s got one big hurdle in the way: How to get everyone on the Internet to upgrade their browser. Flash, remember, became ubiquitous because Web surfers needed to install it to watch YouTube. What Apple needs is a compelling website for which people will install a new browser to avoid being left out of the fun. Just as Adobe’s Flash was popularized by a video startup, the killer site for HTML5 almost certainly won’t come from Apple.

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