Adobe Media Player is a new application that lives on top of the AIR platform, which requires a small regular download to keep up to date, kind of like Flash or Adobe Reader. In fact the Acrobat Reader update page now gives you the default option to download Adobe Media Player as well (Mac or Windows, no Linux yet). It is limited to watching Flash video.
Updating to the 1.0 release from the Beta Version was a seamless process, which included the additional step of downloading the latest version of Adobe AIR.
The Adobe Media Player Home Page is a clean and uncluttered affair, with the main screen real estate devoted to promoting the two main content offerings that Adobe has lined up : CSI:New York and The Hills.
The sidebar menu is large and thumbnails for the programs are easy to read and identify. Adobe Media Player using a drop-down style menu to give quick access to popular locations such as; Featured Videos, and genres of content.
One of the frustrations of visiting sites such as Hulu and Veoh from Australia is being locked out of any juicy prime time content, so it was a relief when playback of an episode of CSI:NY kicked off without complications.
The Adobe Media Player provides an option to download, but when you click the little green arrow for CSI:NY a message comes up indicating these episodes are only available as online streams.
There are a range of tags for different content classifications: drama, comedy, news, opinion, etc. Once you get past the star attractions, it's apparent that Adobe's content offerings are pretty light.
In the drama category, apart from CSI:NY and a single episode from series 2 of Jericho, the highlights are a bunch of reruns from Melrose Place in 1993. In the comedy section it was a choice between Rosie O'Donnell on blip.tv or Amanda Congdon of RocketBoom fame standing in line to buy an iPhone back in 2007.
Adobe has its own channel on the Media Player, providing instructional podcasts on Creative Suite software. These are bandwidth-friendly screencasts with audio.
Adobe has obviously put some effort into ensuring it has the server capacity and the bandwidth to ensure a high quality experience with the CSI:NY episodes, whereas many of the other channels on offer suffer from buffering delays (as experienced on a 3MBps DSL2 connection). Fullscreen video quality is quite good, about equivalent to the 1Mbps Flash streams put out by the ABC TV's local Catchup TV service.
In the music section, we tried to catch up with Hilary Duff's podcast from her recent visit to Melbourne, but ended up in buffer hell. We were looking forward to seeing what Hilary made of hook turns and AFL, so we chose to download the 49MB file.
We found it frustrating that Adobe Media Player does not give you much information on what is going on with the download. You get a file size and ETA but no indication of download speed so you can't tell how things are coming along. Anyone used to using players such as Miro or Azureus Vuze will find it rather annoying to just sit there watching a green download bar. Also there is no ability to schedule downloads to take place overnight if you have that option for cheaper downloads with your ISP.
Also frustrating, once the episode had downloaded it didn't show up in our Personal Videos folder. We had to navigate back a couple of steps to the Hilary Duff podcast channel to find where it was waiting to playback.
When it comes to the world of desktop media players, it seems the rule of thumb is you can never have enough of a good thing.
After installing the Adobe Media Player we did a quick count and came up with eight on our Windows desktop: Windows Media Player, QuickTime, Real, Veoh, Miro, Vuze, Adobe Media Player and VLC. All have their respective benefits, and many suffer format lock-ins, but it does seem a little ironic that we have so many options for video playback platforms when the ultimate aim is high quality fullscreen video with the player completely invisible.
Adobe's latest offering is more than just another media player, its the vanguard of a new platform for delivering applications that are not tied to the Internet browser. Its now up to Adobe to convince content owners that it is channeling the future of Web media, so we can all be convinced to tune in.