Apple’s policy of banning Flash technology from the iPhone and iPad gained new attention this week after CEO Steve Jobs posted a rather lengthy explanation of the somewhat controversial policy. And while it may seem like just another academic technical debate, there are ramifications for the music industry.

Let’s start with video, which is the most directly affected. Music videos online have enormous revenue potential, as indicated with the creation of the Vevo joint venture run by former UMG eLabs executive Rio Caraeff. In his post, Jobs defends the lack of Flash for video by saying:
"YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever."

Nope. Go to YouTube online and everything available on Vevo is available on YouTube, which relies on Flash for its online iteration. Now try finding Vevo content in the YouTube app for the iPad and iPhone. The only official Vevo content I could find was a short teaser for the Lady Gaga “Telephone” video with a link to view the full video on Vevo. Follow that link to the Vevo site and you get a landing page where you can leave your contact information to be notified when the official Vevo iPhone app becomes available.

It’s not just Vevo. Try searching for Warner Music Group artists like T.I. or Green Day. Mostly all you get are videos posted by individual users, not from the band or the label. The only exception I’ve been able to find is “Brick by Boring Brick” by Paramore posted directly from the feuledbyramen channel. Maybe there’s more, but because you can’t opt to see additional videos posted by any one user or channel, it’s very difficult to determine whether Vevo or feuledbyramen posted other “official” music videos.

Now many music videos are still available, if they’ve been posted by individual YouTube members. But the quality is generally poor and the YouTube app for the iPad/iPhone doesn’t include channel listings for artists or label groups. The only way to find a music video is to type in the name of the song or artists in the search field and cross your fingers.

This is not YouTube’s fault. It’s Apple’s. The iPhone/iPad YouTube apps were built by Apple using YouTube’s APIs. In doing so, it eliminated many of the features that make online video compelling for labels, advertising foremost among them. The iPhone/iPad YouTube apps also eliminate any label or artist branding as well as access to audience measurement and metrics. Both Vevo’s and Warner’s licensing deals with YouTube require all three elements in order to access their content.

It’s not just music video services. The Web-based versions of streaming music sites like Rhapsody and Napster rely on Flash technology as well. Try navigating to from an iPad or iPhone, and you’ll automatically be transferred to a mobile version of the service. It’s quite stripped down, but it allows you to play music. Now try it with Rhapsody. You can browse the site, but can’t play any songs as its browser-based player requires Flash (which also includes advertising).

Finally, try visiting artists’ websites directly and the videos hosted there are almost universally out of luck. All the major record labels have signed on with Brightcove to facilitate video on artists’ websites, again based on Flash.

So the options on the table now are either to remain content with your Flash-based content not appearing on the iPhone/iPad, or taking out your wallet to develop a workaround. Those workarounds take two forms: One is to create a iPhone/iPad specific app like what Rhapsody and Vevo are doing, or develop a version of your website that supports the HTML5 standard (which Apple supports).

Now the extra step of creating a iPhone/iPad version of these apps isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. It’s a needed step for some services even if Apple allowed Flash on its devices because of the different interface and the need to cache songs for offline access, such as what Rhapsody recently added to its iPhone app. The question is whether the only way to monetize any of these apps with advertising will be through Apple’s new iAd mobile advertising platform, or if other options will exist. We won’t know for sure until the system goes live later this summer.

For those opting for the Web-optimization approach, the good news is that Brightcove—the Web video syndication platform that all many labels today use to serve video across their artist sites—is currently working on a solution to support HTML5 across its platform. Hulu, which also relies on Flash today, is reportedly developing a non-Flash version for the Apple product as well.

As usual, these open letters of Jobs don’t tell the whole story. They’re usually well-reasoned technical arguments that ultimately hide a deeper business strategy. (Remember his "Thoughts on Music" screed calling for labels to drop their DRM requirements, written at a time when EMI was already negotiating to do exactly that?) This time, the hidden element seems to be advertising, in that Apple wants its iAd platform to serve the ads rather than Flash. (See this essay “Steve Jobs is Lying about Flash”)

So keep that in mind as you navigate the iPad/iPhone waters. The music industry already knows what it’s like to give Apple too much control over its content in a sales-based model. Don’t get caught in the same position when it comes to controlling your revenues in the advertising space as well.

Plugged/UnPlugged is an online column by Billboard digital and mobile correspondent Antony Bruno.