Communication Entertainment Microsoft Technology

Adobe Media Player debuts

Adobe have the wind to their backs, and looking down the playing field, they can see old enemies with the sun in their eyes, trying to figure out if it’s a confident smile or gritted determination they see on the faces of those coming towards them. Either way, it’s best to exercise caution and brace for a collision, ‘coz Adobe are rollin’…

Adobe have just released their own media player, prosaically entitled, Adobe Media Player.

While I provide you with the official press release, unless you want to have your senses dulled by the blandness contained therein, stick around here for a while, I usually get up a head of steam.

Enough for everyone, or so I’m told.

So I’ll pick out the salient points for you, such as:

Adobe Media Player enables higher quality Flash format playback, the ability to download and view videos offline, ways to discover interesting new shows, full screen playback, one-click viewer ratings, and a powerful Favorites feature that automatically downloads new episodes of favorite TV shows or video podcasts. The player is cross-platform, based on open standards – including RSS and SMIL – and brings viewers the highly desired ability to play the Web’s most popular video format outside of their browser.”

Which as well as sounding a lot like Apple iTunes (sans the Flash ‘n’ Favorites,) it also sounds very much like that other Adobe technology at work behind the scenes, namely Apollo:

Adobe Media Player is developed using Apollo, the code name of Adobe’s recently announced application runtime that empowers content publishers and web developers to build and deploy Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) on the desktop using technologies such as Flash, PDF, and HTML.”

There’s more, but it’s not all that important to me.

What floats my boat is the story behind the news – the hidden techno-political machinations, if you will.

Anyway, when I look at what Adobe are talking about, in some respects, you could argue that they’re a little behind the times:

“For content publishers, Adobe Media Player enables better ways to deliver, monetize, brand, track and protect video content. It provides an array of video delivery options for high-quality online and offline playback, including on-demand streaming, live streaming, progressive download, and protected download-and-play.”

Scanning through the press release, while finding phrases like: ‘protect video content’ and: ‘protected download-and-play’ I didn’t find the dreaded phrase: ‘digital rights management’, although that’s certainly been the interpretation elsewhere.

What with Apple and EMI giving DRM the heave-ho, I suspect things will be a little different for Adobe by the year’s end.

But to be fair to Adobe, the monetizing options at least help keep them on an even footing with the likes of Apple and Microsoft in respect to their own media offerings.

There’s another aspect to the Adobe Media Player, which to me makes the same kind of sense as Netvibes decision to roll out their Netvibes Universe service for brands only to begin with.

Right now, despite all of the hullaballoo about Adobe Apollo, it’s got no traction. No track record. No major points to its name.

OK, we know that Yourminis have updated their personal page service so that their widgets use Adobe Apollo, but as good as Yourminis is, they’re not a major player with a huge audience of the scale that Adobe would need to give their Apollo-driven Adobe Media Player a good airing.

In lieu of a more coveted player stepping onto the stage to help Adobe out with some rose-tinted endorsement, for now, they have to go it alone.

It’s no surprise to me that Adobe should choose a media player as the first, serious application to showcase their Apollo technology, since it’s so much the ‘in thing’ these days.

What I want to see are other, less obvious uses of Adobe Apollo technology. Stuff that bridges the internet and the desktop. Something even I wouldn’t have thought of!

In a Flash!

While the Adobe Media Player is ostensibly an Adobe Apollo application, at it’s heart beats Flash, all be it a souped-up version, powered to drive high-quality media:

“Adobe Media Player enables higher quality Flash format playback,…”

And me being the argumentative sort these days, could it be said that Adobe have been fobbing us off with a low-grade version of Flash all these years? I blinkin’ well hope not!

Write once, run anywhere

The truly disruptive nature of Adobe Apollo is awe-inspiring, it really is.

While I don’t see Adobe Media Player making Apple’s iTunes wince any time soon, the same might not be true for, say, Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.

However, what Adobe might have in technical smarts to run rings around Microsoft, Microsoft more than make up for this short-coming by way of some exceptionally lucrative media deals with the music labels and the movie studios .. and that’s not mention the games developers.

Taking a leaf from the Apple playbook of long-term strategizing, this could be the kind of product that reveals itself in stages as the years pass.

For example: “[Adobe Media Player] complements and leverages other Adobe components … such as Adobe Creative Suite® 3 Production Premium for video, audio and motion graphics production…”

Anyone with a lick of sense and a head for creating branded, utilitarian mobile applications can knock a Rich Internet Application together in less than a couple of days, one that will also live, work and play quite happily on the desktop of any computer and quite possibly actively undermine several Microsoft applications in a single stroke.

What about a light-weight PIM (Personal Information Manager?) Or a shared address book? And what about a secure corporate email client built into your intranet home page?

And from where I’m standing, this all looks like the protracted public face of a silent software war

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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