Adobe Opens Formats to Shine Flash on More Screens

Adobe Systems has assembled a group of industry leaders in an effort to put its Flash-based rich Internet solutions and content on most every screen — PCs, mobile phones, MP3 players, televisions and any other consumer electronic device that might have a screen worthy of delivering content.

The effort is called the “Open Screen Project,” and it’s supported by a who’s-who of players: ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Cisco, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Verizon Wireless.

Notably absent, however, are Apple, Google and Microsoft.

On the content producing side of the group, BBC, MTV Networks, and NBC Universal have joined Adobe because, Adobe said, they want to reliably deliver rich Web and video experiences live and on-demand across a variety of devices.

“Adobe is spearheading the Open Screen Project with support from industry leaders who share a common vision to provide rich, interactive experiences across computers, devices and consumer electronics,” noted Shantanu Narayen, chief executive officer at Adobe. “A consistent, more open platform for developers will drive rapid innovation, vastly improving the user experience,” he added.

A Consistent Runtime Environment

The Open Screen Project is designed to help use Adobe technology — right now, Adobe Flash Player, and in the future, Adobe AIR — to deliver a consistent runtime environment to make it easier for developers and designers to publish content and applications across most any device. Adobe Flash is currently installed on about 98 percent of Internet-enabled PCs, but its usage on other devices has a lot of room to grow.

The Open Screen Project will address potential technology fragmentation by enabling the runtime technology to be updated seamlessly over the air on mobile devices, Adobe said, as well as provide optimal performance across a variety of operating systems and devices.

Fewer Restrictions

As part of Adobe’s effort, the company said it will continue to open access to Adobe Flash technology by removing restrictions on use of the SWF (Shockwave Flash) and FLV/F4V (Flash Video) specifications. It will publish the device porting layer application programing interfaces for Adobe Flash Player, publish the Adobe Flash Cast protocol and the AMF (Action Message Format) protocol for robust data services, and remove licensing fees, which would make the next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free.

“As a longstanding champion of open standards, Motorola supports Adobe’s Open Screen Project and its goal of enabling a more open development experience for the ecosystem,” noted Christy Wyatt, vice president of software platforms and ecosystem for Motorola.

“We expect the Open Screen Project to further accelerate the use of Flash technology and innovation in mobile applications, interfaces and platforms, allowing mobile users to experience the richness of the Web on a variety of new devices,” she added.

Tactical Response, Strategic Maneuver

“Basically, I view this as both a tactical response and strategic maneuver for Adobe,” Ray Valdes, a research director for Gartner, told LinuxInsider.

“It’s a tactical response because they are moving more head-to-head with Microsoft and Silverlight,” he added, noting that Microsoft will release a second version of Silverlight later this year that will be more programmable with .NET and better able to compete with Adobe’s Flash-based technology.

“Adobe is trying to get out ahead of that,” he said.

Strong Move

“Some companies will open source stuff as a last gasp,” Valdes said. “But this is not the case here — Adobe is in a position of strength.”

As a strategic maneuver, Valdes noted, both Microsoft and Adobe, as well as other players in the industry, are responding to changes in the consumer and enterprise landscape — for example, “Our phones are becoming more like computers … so there’s a need for a common technology foundation at different levels,” he explained.

“The biggest missing element is Apple — Apple is the elephant in the room. I’m sure there’s a back story there with many twists and turns and personalities from both Apple and Adobe,” he added, noting that he thinks Adobe’s efforts are a good move overall. As for Google, he said, the company tends to chart its own path and has plenty of things brewing as well.

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