Adobe Extends Flash to the Television Set

In what could be a major boost for the emerging over-the-top-TV space, Adobe Systems announced at the NAB show in Las Vegas, Monday, that it is launching an implementation of Adobe Flash that will enable rich interactive applications and high-definition broadband video on Internet-connected TV sets, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and other connected digital home devices. The company has lined up a number of major system-on-chip vendors, OEM's, cable operators and content providers to announce support for the new TV-optimized Flash implementation, including Atlantic Records, Broadcom, Comcast, Disney Interactive Media Group, Intel, Netflix, STMicroelectronics, The New York Times Company, NXP Semiconductors, and Sigma Designs. Adobe says that the new Flash implementation, dubbed the Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home, is available immediately to OEM's, and that the first devices and SoC platforms to support it are scheduled to ship in the second half of the year.

According to Adobe, the new implementation of Flash enables the delivery of HD Web videos to Internet-connected TV sets, set-tops and other connected home devices via the Flash Video (FLV) file format. It claims that Flash-based applications will allow viewers to quickly switch between regular TV programming and Web content outside the browser. Thanks to the new technology, online content providers will be able to extend their reach to millions of connected digital home devices, the company says, while cable operators and device manufacturers will be able to develop new services and "powerful user interfaces" that provide "immersive experiences." Adobe is previewing the new technology in its NAB booth this week (SL3320, South Hall). "Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home will dramatically change the way we view content on televisions," David Wadhwani, VP and general manager of Adobe's Platform Business Unit, said in a prepared statement. "Consumers are looking to access their favorite Flash technology-based videos, applications, services and other rich Web content across screens. We are looking forward to working with partners to create these new experiences and deliver content consistently across devices, whether consumers view it on their desktop, mobile phone or television."

According to Adobe, its effort to bring Flash technology to the digital home builds on the vision of the Open Screen Project, an industry initiative to deliver a consistent runtime environment across devices. The initiative, which was announced last May, is attempting to enable Web content and standalone applications across TV sets, desktops, mobile devices and other consumer electronics devices that use Adobe Flash. "Comcast is constantly working to deliver richer user interfaces and services to our customers," Labeeb Ismail, VP of technology at Comcast, said in a prepared statement. "As an active participant of the Open Screen Project, we are working closely with Adobe to integrate the optimized Flash runtime with tru2way technology, enabling a new range of engaging, interactive services to consumers." Added Bill Holmes, VP of business development at Netflix: "Adobe's Flash Platform for the Digital Home offers great promise as Netflix continues its expansion directly to the television with our consumer electronics partners." And added William O. Leszinske, Jr., general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group: "Intel and Adobe have a long history of collaboration and have worked together to optimize Flash technology for the digital home on the Intel Media Processor CE 3100, the first in a new family of purpose-built Intel system-on-chips for CE devices. As an active participant of the Open Screen Project, we recognize the value of extending rich, Flash-based Internet content and applications to a broad range of devices in your pocket, on your lap, at the office and now in your living room. We are excited to integrate the optimized Flash runtime into digital home platforms featuring Intel's SoC, such as advanced set-top boxes, high-definition digital televisions, Blu-ray Disc players and other connected AV devices."

Adobe also used the NAB show, Monday, to announce:

1) A new software framework for building media players, that it says extends the capabilities of Adobe Flash. The company bills the new framework, code-named "Strobe," as helping establish an open industry standard for media players and offering production-ready software components to streamline the development of custom media players, thus reducing the time content publishers spend creating their own playback technologies. It claims that the framework will enable Flash developers to quickly and easily add rich functionality--including advertising, user measurement and tracking, and integration with social networks--into new custom players that can be branded for individual content owners. "With Strobe, we're delivering an open framework that enables media companies to focus on their core competency, creating great content that people want to see, instead of developing their own video players from scratch," Jim Guerard, VP and general manager of dynamic media at Adobe, said in a prepared statement. "Adobe is committed to driving Web innovation, and now with Strobe, we are helping to create an open framework for media players, enabling developers and media companies to focus on developing, delivering, and monetizing content so they can extend their online media efforts."

According to Adobe, Strobe will accelerate the creation of media players by enabling developers to assemble plug-and-play software components from Adobe itself and from third-party developers. It claims that Strobe's "open, extensible framework" will be incorporated into its standard set of development tools, allowing developers in the Adobe Flash Platform ecosystem to use components in their media players that add rich functionality. Because Strobe takes advantage of the widely deployed Flash Platform (Adobe claims it is installed on 98% of Internet-connected desktops), the company says, content owners can be sure that their content will reach the widest possible online audience when they launch their Strobe-based video players. Like the new TV-based implementation of Flash, the new Strobe framework builds on the vision of the Open Screen Project, Adobe says. "Omniture continues to see growth in our customers' use of rich media," John Mellor, EVP of corporate strategy and business development at Omniture, said in a prepared statement. "Along with that growth has come the desire to better understand how rich media affects return on investment. Our customers are asking us about how to optimize the use of rich media, and our relationship with Adobe helps us answer those questions. Adobe's Strobe allows Omniture to enable key functionalities, such as in-depth analytics, indicating how consumers interact with content. With this understanding, we can help our customers create relevant and personalized experiences on this exciting new platform."

2) An expanded strategic alliance with broadband video publishing solutions provider, Brightcove. The companies say that their alliance will see them collaborating on technologies and services that will enhance the quality of online video experiences, accelerate the development of content protection for rich media using Adobe Flash technology, and facilitate desktop tool integration to streamline online video workflows. The companies also plan to enable interoperability between the new "Strobe" open media player framework and Brightcove's broadband video platform. The companies say that their alliance will enable them to offer a solution that will enable broadcasters and other media organizations to deliver secure "up-to-HD-quality," long-form content to consumers through standard Web browsers, without the need for non-standard software plug-ins or proprietary technology stacks.

According to Adobe and Brightcove, their expanded alliance will see them focusing on four strategic areas:
--Long-form media delivery. The companies say they plan to enable publishers of premium content to take full advantage of the dynamic streaming, encryption and H.264 delivery capabilities of Adobe Flash Media Streaming Server 3.5 software to deliver "up-to-HD-quality" video experiences through the Brightcove platform. They claim that the broad reach of the Brightcove platform will help accelerate the adoption of these features.
--Content protection for video viewed via Adobe Flash. The companies say they are working on a plan to enable content owners to "prevent abuse" while offering an "outstanding" end-user experience.
--Integration of the Brightcove platform with Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium. The companies say that this integration will enable the Brightcove platform to stream online publishing workflows, while preserving valuable metadata.
--"Strobe." The companies say they will collaborate to ensure interoperability between the new Adobe open media player framework and the Brightcove platform.

Adobe and Brightcove say they plan to announce a number of ongoing initiatives as part of their strategic alliance. They also say that the alliance provides a framework for joint marketing and sales activities.

 

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