Adobe Flash Deals Open Living Room to More Web Content

You may keep your computer and your TV in separate rooms in your house, but the living arrangements between the two devices are going to get a little cozier, thanks to Adobe.

The multimedia software company used the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual meeting in Las Vegas Monday as a stage to announce it is extending its market-leading Flash Web video platform to the kinds of devices you find in your living room: Internet-ready TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray disc players and more.

“Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home will dramatically change the way we view content on televisions,” said Adobe General Manager David Wadhwani.

“Consumers are looking to access their favorite Flash technology-based videos, applications, services and other rich Web content across screens,” he continued. “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.”

The partners announced Monday represent a wide range of media content and home hardware providers: Atlantic Records, Broadcom, Comcast, Disney Interactive Media Group, Intel, Netflix, STMicroelectronics, The New York Times Company, NXP Semiconductors and Sigma Designs.

A New Era for TV Viewing

The announcement means more than just being able to watch a user-generated YouTube video of a skateboarding bulldog on your 42-inch plasma TV. With television networks and movie studios moving more of their popular content online, and with most of that content sitting on the Flash standard, Adobe has just validated its investment, according to Ben Bajarin, director of the consumer technology practice at Creative Strategies.

“One of the things that Flash is going to solve is the user-interface problem,” Bajarin told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s not just TV manufacturers that have been wary of that, and that’s why they haven’t included more of these features in the past. How you discover and consume that content is a really big challenge, so the fact that Flash can now be aggregated into a slick user-based interface is important. Think of it as the next-generation guide to Web-based content.”

About 80 percent of all Web videos run on Flash, according to Adobe estimates, and Flash Player content can reach 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktop computers. The company also says that in 2008, 40 percent of all smartphones and mobile devices ran Flash-based content.

Hardware based on the new Flash platform for home devices is expected to ship in the last half of this year, but a paradigm shift will have begun by then, Bajarin said.

“The Comcast, Dish or Direct TV guys are the only ways you consume broadcast content in a box in a service they control. But the underlying technologies (like Flash) are making a new future possible,” he explained. “Roku is a good example. (The background on Roku is Flash-based.) Right now it’s connected to Netflix. … What if that box in the future also connects to Hulu and ABC and CBS and other content providers? Then you start to question the service providers in the first place.”

The Playing Field for the Competition

Microsoft’s Silverlight multimedia platform now has to work from even farther behind because of Monday’s announcement, Bajarin added.

“Microsoft uses Silverlight as something they can use in their hardware and operating systems in order to add value to their effort, whereas Flash is more open. Silverlight does not work that great on the Mac platform on Safari, and not that great in Firefox. It works very well in Internet Explorer. You carry that out farther, and Silverlight has little support on mobile devices and almost no strategy in the living room beyond Xbox 360. It’s a no-brainer — you have a chance at getting more eyeballs with Flash than with Silverlight.”

The content-producing industry also appreciates the development tools that Adobe will be releasing along with the new digital home device platform. “It’s just a given they’ll start using this more,” Bajarin said.

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