April 21, 2009

Adobe Flash Coming To A TV Near You

A new deal will put a little Adobe Flash software in several of the chips that go inside TVs and set-top boxes.

The technology will enable developers and content providers to create applications to deliver web-based content like news, weather, and share prices to TV screens.

Chips made by Broadcom, Intel, NXP, and STMicroelectronics will include Flash, but the deal does not extend to TVs made by Sony and Samsung.

The first TV sets to include applications using Flash are expected to hit shelves early in 2010.

Sony and Samsung are already using similar technology with Yahoo's rich media platform of widgets instead of Flash.

In the next three years more than 420 million TVs, set-top boxes, and media players are expected to ship around the world.

Adobe hopes it can get Flash inside many of those devices to create a new generation of connected entertainment services. Plans include streaming video in high definition and applications that can run in real time alongside video broadcasts, like interactive news tickers, sport scores, quizzes, and the weather.

Netflix, Disney, and the New York Times have all signed with Adobe to make the first batch of applications.

The appeal for content makers and developers is the emergence of a single standard for rich media, which will let them create applications that run on many devices.

"Change is coming to TV and we will see more and more content get used and taken to TV," said Anup Murarka, director of technology strategy for Flash.

Adobe says Flash is installed on about 98% of PCs and almost 80% of all online video is delivered using Flash.

The software powers services such as YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, and a new generation of video games inside the browser, such as Quake Live.

Adobe's competition still has a long way to go.

Microsoft has been pushing its rival platform Silverlight, but it has had little success thus far with developers and hardware manufacturers.

During the past six months, the company says its second version of Silverlight has been installed on 300 million machines. But analysts think Silverlight is unlikely to challenge Flash anytime soon across PCs, mobiles and TV screens.

One advantage: Microsoft does have the Xbox 360 in the hands of at least 28 million gamers, and some believe the gaming machine could be used to drive take-up of Silverlight in the home.

Microsoft also has a few deals with the makers of set-top boxes to power the software that runs TV guides and on-demand services over the Internet.

Flash Platform Business Unit general manager and vice president David Wadhwani said he still hoped to overtake Microsoft and see Flash on the Xbox 360. He noted the software is already running on the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

"I don't think it is beyond the realm of reason that we will see Flash on the Xbox.

"It would add clear value to their platform. But the decision is still theirs to make."

Adobe is pushing to become the global standard for all rich media in the "three screen" world - PC, TV, and mobile.


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