New Adobe Flash Streams Internet Directly to TVs
by Linda Dailey Paulson
Adobe Systems has released a new version of its popular Flash multimedia technology able to stream Internet content directly to TVs.
Observers say the Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home could be an important step in finally realizing the industry's longtime goal of turning the TV into a digital-entertainment platform.
Such a move is considered a critical step in expanding the use, sale, and consumption of digital content and technology on the lucrative TV platform, which many consider to be the center of home entertainment, said Ben Bajarin, director of consumer technology at Creative Strategies, a market research firm.
The new Adobe technology is the first multimedia software platform specifically optimized for use with digital home-entertainment devices such as TVs and set-top boxes, according to Alan Tam, Adobe's senior product marketing manager for the Flash Platform.
Currently, to receive Internet content on their TVs, consumers must first connect a PC to a TV or set-top box. However, explained Tam, this is too difficult for most consumers.
Entertainment firms such as Atlantic Records, Broadcom, Comcast, the Disney Interactive Media Group, Netflix, and the New York Times Co. have agreed to offer Flash-enabled content.
Chip makers like Intel, NXP Semiconductors, and STMicroelectronics say they will support the new Flash version in their processors.
The key to the technology is its ability to work with chipsets in TVs, set-top boxes, and other video devices, said Tam.
One reason for this, said Bajarin, is that the new version is a lightweight implementation of Flash. This is necessary, he explained, because TVs typically don't have either a full operating system or a powerful CPU and thus can't run the full implementation.
Adobe also designed and tuned the new Flash version to work specifically with TV sets' hardware and software architectures.
The new Flash version supports video up to high-definition 1080p-encoded streams, as well as lower-definition 720p.
TVs that can't access the Internet could still use the new Flash for local content.
To view Internet content, TVs could use either a browser or another interface that manufacturers might design in the future.
On PCs, Flash typically requires periodic updates necessitating browser restarts, which wouldn't be practical for TVs. Adobe is working with TV manufacturers to decide how to deliver updates to the new platform, which could be accomplished via firmware.
According to Tam, the new Flash delivers not only video but also interactive content such as games and social-networking applications.
Flash, he said, is already very popular and runs on many platforms, including those for mobile communications. Currently, about 98 percent of all Internet-connected PCs have a Flash player installed and the technology delivers 99 percent of all online video content viewed in the US, according to Adrian Ludwig, group product marketing manager for Adobe’s Flash Platform Business Unit.
Adobe says the new Flash version will be available by the end of this year. To attract developers, the vendor plans to make the entire technology open source and freely available for licensing, except those portions containing proprietary codecs that Adobe licenses from other companies, Ludwig noted.
Eventually, Bajarin said, Adobe will need a ful ly funct ioning version of Flash for TV and mobile devices.