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May 1, 2008

NEWS: Adobe to Publish Flash File Format Specs

Adobe to Publish Flash File Format Specs

Adobe is today announcing the "Open Screen Project" which will seek to create a consistent runtime environment for rich media across a myriad of devices. In other words, Flash on the web, mobile, desktop, television, and other consumer electronic devices. As part of this initiative, Adobe will be releasing the file format specifications for Flash (.swf and .flv/f4v) and removing all licensing restrictions involved with the Flash format. In the future, the project will be expanded to include AIR...

Adobe Open Screen Project opens door for even more Flash

Just in case you think Adobe’s Flash Player (which powers YouTube and an enormous number of other sites) isn’t ubiquitous enough, Adobe is pushing for even greater adoption from developers and designers. Through an initiative the company is calling the Open Screen Project, Adobe will lift a number of restrictions on Flash in the hopes creating even greater usage, especially on web-enabled devices.

Adobe’s goal, says Standards and Open Source Director Dave McAllister, is to create a consistent runtime environment for applications running on computers, televisions, mobile devices and consumer electronics. Right now, if companies want to build apps that run on multiple devices, they need multiple development teams — one for the regular web version, one for the mobile version and so on. As more and more devices get connected to the web, the situation will just get more complicated. But if Adobe succeeds, developers can just create one app that’s compatible across the board — and, naturally, those applications will run on Flash (or AIR, Adobe’s player for hybrid web-desktop applications).

“This is the first true step into making sure that the extended web of desktops and devices is also an open web,” McAllister says.

One component of the Open Screen Project is financial. Right now, the Flash Player is distributed for free online, but Adobe charges licensing fees for the mobile version. As of the next release of Flash and AIR, those licensing fees will be eliminated. (To be clear, this doesn’t cover Flash Player 10, which is already in private testing mode, but the version of Flash that comes out afterwards.) Of course, that means one of Adobe’s revenue streams will disappear. But if it leads to greater Flash usage, McAllister thinks Adobe can more than make up for that on the developer side by charging for tools.

Adobe will be be making some technical changes too, like removing restrictions on SWF and FLV/F4V, publishing the application programming interface (API) layers for Flash’s porting layer and publishing the Adobe Flash Cast and AMF protocols. ..

Adobe Finally Takes On Apple, Google In Mobile

Today Adobe announced a new hugely important strategic initiative regarding the Flash Player called the Open Screen Project. The upshot: It's finally ready to start competing with Google and Apple for mobile platform developers...

This is a direct shot across the bow of both Apple (AAPL) with the iPhone and Google (GOOG) with Android. Adobe has far more 3rd-party developers than Apple does with Mac OS/iPhone or Google does with Android, and if they can make it totally seamless to develop for desktop or mobile, it will radically change the dynamics of the business. Presumably Adobe will be able to port this next version of Flash to the iPhone as well, though the politics of that will be interesting given Steve Jobs' antipathy for Flash.

From a business perspective, Adobe seems to have everyone onboard that matters including Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Qualcomm, Samsung, Intel, and lots of others. Now that Flash is free and presumably easy to embed, it instantly becomes the mobile and embedded software platform to beat.

Apple, movie studios realize people want new releases when they’re new

When Apple revealed that it had signed up all of the major movie studios to distribute films via the iTunes store in January, lost in the fine print was the fact that most new releases would still have a waiting period before they were available online. This was simply because Hollywood was afraid of cannibalizing DVD sales. It’s the same reason why movies don’t come to HBO until a few weeks or months after their DVD release. That is about to change..
.Adobe’s Open Screen Project: Write Once, Flash Everywhere

Adobe is making a big play to make Flash the de facto viewing environment not only for Web apps on your PC, but also on your mobile phone, your TV, and any other screen you can think of. It is announcing the Open Screen Project to make it easier to develop applications across devices—using Flash, of course. David Wadhwani, general manager of Adobe’s platform business (which includes Flash/Flex, AIR, and Cold Fusion), says:


We believe it is time for an industry-wide movement for a consistent way to develop across the Web for PCs, mobile devices, and TVs.

To help the project along, Adobe is:

1. Opening up the runtime to its Flash player for the first time so that anybody can create their own customized player. Specifically, it is going to open up the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications. In the past, developers had to sign agreements not to create derivative Flash players because Adobe wanted to avoid the fragmentation that Java experienced during its early years. But now it feels that Flash is a strong enough standard to withstand the introduction of some new evolutionary branches.

2. Removing licensing fees for Flash on mobile devices. While Flash is free on PCs, cell phone makers and other device manufacturers must pay a royalty fee. This was a $52 million business for Adobe last year. (Versions of Flash are on 500 million mobile devices already, and that is expected to grow to one billion over the next 12 months). That business (which represents only 2 percent of Adobes overall revenues) is going away. Starting with the next major release of Flash (and AIR) for devices in 2009, it will be free to device manufacturers. That should help Flash spread even more.

3. Publishing the APIs for porting Flash to other devices. This currently also incurs a royalty fee. By opening it up, there is no reason why every device shouldn’t come with Flash pre-installed.

4. Publishing Adobe protocols for pushing content to devices like Flash Cast and AMF. Adobe will also work with wireless carriers on protocols for over-the-air software updating. (This is actually a hard problem because most software downloaded to a mobile phone gets stored in read-only-memory, where it pretty much stays until the device is replaced. Getting mobile software to update as easily as desktop software is the key to making sure mobile apps keep up with the times.

On the application creation side, Adobe increasingly will be adopting a widget approach. There is not much difference between a widget that runs as a module on a Web page and a mobile app that runs on a small screen. Wadhwani explains:

These things can expand up. Developers are looking to optimize for these small screen sizes. Instead of squashing it down from a desktop experience, it is easier to start small and build up.

The same approach can be used for apps on other devices as well, such as set-top boxes...

Adobe Plans to Give Away Flash for Mobile Devices

Adobe said it will license its video-enabling Flash software for free for mobile devices to help developers make mobile Internet experiences more closely resemble the experience on computers.

Adobe Opens Up Flash

Adobe Systems is opening up access to its Flash technology via the Open Screen Project, an industry initiative...
Ed: On a slow news day, Adobe dominates the conversations.

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