Comcast, Broadcom and Netflix, among others, have announced support for Adobe Systems’ plans to incorporate Flash into digital home devices to support bi-directional streaming of Internet video.
The Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home will be incorporated on chips that go into TV sets, set-top boxes and game consoles to deliver high definition (HD) video and interactive applications.
For cable operators, the catch is that the TV sets or set-top boxes must be connected to the Internet for the Flash technology to work.
Game consoles, which already connect to the Internet, have the early advantage when it comes to streaming Internet video on TV, said Alan Tam, senior product marketing manager, Flash Platform. (For more on game consoles, click here.)
"Demand from consumers is really driving Internet-connected devices," said Tam.
That assertion was backed up at an online video roundtable at The Cable Show in early April. Ryan Pirozzi, director, digital merchandising and video services at Best Buy, said, "The question we get asked the most is, ‘How can I get Google on my TV?’"
Tam said that although the average cycle for TV replacement is 5-7 years, an Internet-connected set-top box would suffice to enable the Flash technology.
In January, Adobe and Boadcom announced the integration of the Adobe Flash Platform into Broadcom’s latest DTV and set-top box system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms. (For the announcement, click here.)
"We, as a chip vendor, enable technology," said Joseph Del Rio, senior marketing manager, broadband business group, at Broadcom. "Our customers will license Flash from Adobe. Then we provide hardware to make it happen."
Operators have traditionally considered the set-top box as a necessity for getting content from point A to point B as cheaply as possible, said Del Rio. But Internet-connected set-tops with Flash will allow a much greater user interface with graphics familiar from the PC.
Del Rio said the user interface from most cable operators "is much like watching an Excel spreadsheet. That’s not very compelling, especially if looking at several thousand sources of content. That’s what Adobe brings to the table. We’re starting to erase the line between traditional PCs and traditional set-tops."
As far as which applications might be written first for Flash set-tops, Tam said, "streaming HD video is low-hanging fruit."
Cable operators are working to enable tru2way on set-tops. When asked if the Java-based tru2way applications would conflict with Flash, Tam said, "History has proven that the technologies are more complementary than competitive." He cited Project Capuchin, where Sony Ericsson has Flash layered on top of Java for applications in mobile devices.
"The user experience is really delivered via Flash (with) Java on the backend for device integration," said Tam.
Comcast, which is working with Adobe on an industry initiative known as the Open Screen Project, appears to be on board with Flash and tru2way.
"We are working closely with Adobe to integrate the optimized Flash runtime with tru2way technology, enabling a new range of engaging, interactive services to consumers," said Labeeb Ismail, VP technology at Comcast, in the Adobe announcement.
The first digital home devices with Flash chips are expected to ship in the second half of 2009.
– Linda Hardesty
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