Adobe pushes Flash video on mobile devices

Adobe garners the support of Google, Palm, and Motorola for its new Flash software for smartphones, smartbooks, Netbooks, and other mobile devices.

Updated on October 5 at 2:00 p.m. PDT: adding information about support for iPhone

Adobe Systems has garnered the support of mobile heavy hitters such as Google, Motorola, Nvidia, Palm, RIM, and Qualcomm for its new Flash Player 10.1 software for smartphones, Netbooks, and other mobile devices. The company plans to announce the support Monday at its developer conference in Los Angeles.

Adobe's goal is to get Flash Player 10.1 accelerated directly on the chips in smartphones, Netbooks, and small laptops based on the ARM chip architecture, called smartbooks. To date, Flash video acceleration has not been available widely on mobile devices.

"It's critical to support in hardware because (Flash) video is really computationally intensive," Tom Barclay, Adobe senior product marketing manager for Flash Player, said in an interview. "Putting that on the hardware provides the ability to play it back fluidly...so you're not going to drain the battery on these devices."

Though Flash-based video is available on virtually all PCs, "the vast majority of mobile devices have been fundamentally closed," according to Barclay. "This means there is a single (device maker) or carrier or handset manufacturer that can stop technology from getting onto those devices. And that's one of the reasons why the Web as been so slow to be directly accessible from those devices."

Toward the end of getting Flash to run directly on small mobile devices, Adobe created the Open Screen Project. "The Open Screen project is about making more of those devices open. In particular, providing flash player for free in an open manner with the requirement that (device suppliers) make it open for developers," Barclay said.

Adobe also announced on Monday that Google has joined the Open Screen Project initiative. Handset manufacturers such as Motorola will ship Google Android based devices with Flash Player support "early next year," according to a Motorola statement. Companies such as Nvidia, Broadcom, Nokia, RIM, and ARM chip suppliers such as Qualcomm, are all participants in the Open Screen Project.

Conspicuous by its absence was Apple. "Flash is not available on the iPhone at this point," said Adrian Ludwig, group manager, flash platforms at Adobe. "So far, we haven't received the support that we need from Apple." (Note: Adobe announced Monday that programmers will be able to create native iPhone applications using Adobe's Flash Professional CS5 developer tool, currently in beta testing, then offer their programs as an Apple App Store download.)

Apple aside, this is all part of an aggressive push by Adobe to get acceleration on mobile devices. More than 75 percent of video on the Web is delivered through the Flash Player, according to Ludwig. "Having the Flash player on your device means you're able to access all the content out there on the Web," Ludwig said, referring to referring to such sites as YouTube, the video inside MySpace, and Facebook, as well as Fox News and CNN.

Games are also a target. Ludwig pointed to Flash-based games, such as Playfish and FarmVille, played on social-networking sites.

A public developer beta of Flash 10.1 is expected to be available for Windows Mobile, Palm WebOS, and desktop operating systems including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux later this year, Lugwig said. Public betas for Google Android and Symbian operating systems are expected to be available in early 2010. Version 10.1 includes more comprehensive Flash player support for accelerometer-based screen orientation, in which the screen can be reoriented between landscape and portrait modes, and multitouch.

RIM, Nokia, Nvidia, and Qualcomm announced their intention to bring Flash Player to devices, including BlackBerry smartphones, Nokia devices, Nvidia silicon, and Qualcomm chipsets, respectively.

Intel's Netbook technology, which is based on the Atom processor, will support the Flash Player directly on hardware by way of a Broadcom chip, according to Intel. "One would need Broadcom video acceleration to take advantage of the optimizations that Adobe is making on flash," an Intel spokesman said.

Nvidia will support Flash acceleration on its GeForce graphics processors, Ion chipsets, and ARM-based Tegra chips.

For its part, Nokia said that along with Adobe it is introducing a new Nokia Web Runtime (WRT) extensions for Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 software making the creation of mobile WRT widgets for supported Nokia devices easier. Qualcomm said that the first consumer devices ready to support Flash Player 10.1 will be smartbooks and smartphones from companies such as Toshiba and will be based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset.

Adobe is also working, in parallel, on the back end: where servers push the content out of the cloud. Barclay explained that servers need to adjust to the type of device that's playing back the video. "(If) the content was designed for a PC that's got very high resolution and very big from a bandwidth standpoint...the work that we're doing on the server side allows the content provider to detect your bandwidth and optimize the content on the fly so it doesn't need to deliver as many pixels as a high resolution because your device simply can't draw it."

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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