Adobe Systems on Monday unveiled a version of its Flash multimedia streaming technology that would allow people to run entertainment programming directly to television sets from the Internet, a new option for the rapidly changing digital-home market.
Adobe also has signed up a host of partners to support the technology, called the Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home. The new platform is available now to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), and the first devices and processors that will support it should be available in the second half of the year, Adobe said.
Partners that have signed on to support the new version of Flash are Atlantic Records, Broadcom, Comcast, Disney Interactive Media Group, Intel, Netflix, STMicroelectronics, The New York Times Company, NXP Semiconductors and Sigma Designs.
Industry analyst Ben Bajarin, director of consumer technology for Creative Strategies, said the news is significant because it makes Flash the first enabling technology to allow entertainment providers to stream content directly to televisions. Currently, the way to get this kind of content onto televisions is mainly by hooking up a PC to a TV or set-top box, he said.
Bajarin said Adobe also is approaching its digital home strategy from a different perspective than competitors. Rather than provide a PC with a media-enhanced OS, like Microsoft does with digital home-optimized PCs, Adobe wants to provide a software platform to take content directly from the Internet to TVs.
"It's more from a development platform that Adobe is approaching it," he said. "They want [media companies] to consider how they develop this content and use Flash as the underlying architecture to provide streaming Web-based services to the TV."
The new version of Flash also will allow content to be sent directly to set-top boxes and Blu-ray media players from the Internet, Adobe said.
Despite the advancement of IP-based TV and various entertainment companies providing their TV programming on the Web, the television itself as an entertainment platform has not advanced much, Bajarin said. But now televisions are becoming more sophisticated, so companies from technology vendors like Microsoft and Adobe to cable providers like Comcast and Time Warner to media companies like Disney are trying to find new and better ways to deliver on-demand digital entertainment from the Web to the TV.
Bajarin said leveraging the Internet-to-TV option through a technology like Flash is one way to give consumers more choice about what they watch, and also will provide an interface for how they can access content from their favorite TV network Web sites. Currently, if people want to use the Internet to watch TV, they have to go to different Web sites on a PC to find what they want to view.
"The cable and satellite guys are a slow-moving machine," he said. "It's about time to start to have new experiences to consume and browse and share content that is not dictated by the service providers."
Microsoft also has a streaming video and multimedia technology called Silverlight that competes with Flash, but so far has not released a version that can stream content from the Web to a TV set.