Adobe lights up digital media chain with Strobe

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Research
24 Apr 2009

Just as the operators are waking up to the fact that growth in developed markets will mean taking their services beyond the handset, so the war to dominate mobile software is expanding rapidly to new device types. Adobe is one of the strongest contenders to provide a cross-platform software framework with its Flash and AIR rich media technologies, and has made important extensions to its platform this week, taking it into the heart of portable consumer electronics.

Strobe is Adobe\'s new software framework for building media players, and the company has also created an implementation of Flash that is optimized for high definition video and will take Adobe into internet connected TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-Ray players and other digital home products. With the same experience on the PC, handset and TV, the phonemaker\'s dream of making the handset into the hub/controller for the whole media experience comes a step closer.

Strobe is part of Adobe\'s Open Screen Project, which was formed last May and promised the new Flash Lite media player "within a year", a deadline it has just hit. The project is designed to support Flash Lite and the upcoming low-footprint version of full Flash as the standards for rich media across all devices and operating systems.

Critically, Nokia is a supporter, and Adobe has leveraged its massive installed base - over 500 million mobile devices have Flash Lite installed - to ensure the support of the top five phonemakers, plus Ericsson. Among the chipmakers, Intel, ARM, Marvell and Qualcomm have signed up.

Now that the first implementation based on OpenScreen has appeared, Flash Lite\'s days are numbered - it will transition to the new format and will eventually be replaced.

Strobe, which will be available free in the second half of this year, promises a consistent runtime environment across desktops, televisions, handsets and consumer electronics, providing production-ready software components to speed up development of custom media players branded to different operators and publishers.

Flash developers will be able to add rich media features like advertising, user measurement, social networking and tracking more easily, says Adobe.

Adobe has close relationships with both the key processor companies fighting to dominate mobile internet and CE devices - Intel and ARM. The new moves will be important to ARM, which scores on the low-power front but lacks Intel\'s experience of high-end performance.

Reports this week indicate that one of the key problems vendors are finding as they start to develop low-power ARM/Linux netbooks is poor support for high-end video on the processor, as well as a fragmented software base.

The video-optimized Flash Lite runtime for TVs will appear in products, initially TVs, in time for the holiday buying season, said Adobe executives. This puts Adobe a step ahead of Microsoft Silverlight, which has yet to be seen running on TVs. Intel and Yahoo recently launched the Yahoo Widget Engine for digital TVs, on the Atom processor, and Adobe\'s offering has a similar interface.

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