Adobe and its P2P Ambitions

Adobe Systems, now the owner of Flash multimedia technology, seems to be getting pretty serious about spreading its tentacles into new product categories – from VoIP to peer-to-peer networking. But it is P2P that is at the heart of San Jose, Calif.-based company’s grand design.

In pursuit of this strategy, the company has acquired amicima, a privately held start-up founded in 2004 to “develop improved Internet protocols for client-server and peer-to-peer networking, and to develop new applications based on these protocols.” After being tipped off by one of our readers, we were able to confirm with our sources that Adobe has bought out this tiny company, which can help Adobe achieve its VoIP and P2P ambitions. An Adobe spokesperson declined to comment.

Amicima’s publicly available product is amiciPhone, a p2p-based VoIP client that combines presence, text messaging and file transfers with voice chat. In addition, Adobe recently announced a partnership with VeriSign, which is now in the CDN business. Together, expect a lot of Flash and P2P going forward, perhaps making it a lot easier to move rich content around the Internet.

Though a pint-sized start-up, amicima carried a hefty intellectual punch. Through LinkedIn, we were able to find that amicima co-founder Mathew Kaufman has been working as Senior Computer Scientist for Adobe since October 2006. His co-founder, Michael Thornburgh, is also said to be at Adobe. Both of them have vast experience in networking and P2P technologies. The two of them worked at Tycho Networks, and later at DSL.net, after that company acquired Tycho.

It is unclear whether Adobe acquired amicima for the technology or for the talent. What is clear is that the company is very serious about making the Flash technology an integral part of the “webization of voice,” as we had previously reported.

Amicima’s acquisition, while seemingly voice-centric, could also be viewed as part of company’s multi-pronged P2P strategy. Adobe recently announced a partnership with VeriSign, owners of the Kontiki grid content distribution platform. In an email earlier this month, VeriSign told us, “[we] will be collaborating with Adobe for delivery of Flash video including movies, TV shows, broadcast media and user interface technologies.”

Later, at the CES Show in Las Vegas, the two companies announced their alliance, though it was lost amidst the noise around new phones and gadgets.

The two companies expect to work together to integrate future versions of next generation media technologies leveraging VeriSign’s Kontiki peer-to-peer technology and Adobe’s award winning Flash Video software.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that Adobe could bundle Kontiki’s command-and-control P2P technology into a forthcoming version of Flash. Given the wide scale adoption of Flash, Adobe-Kontiki will be able to create an Internet-wide peer-to-peer cloud.

Publishers are expected to be able to lower their development, quality assurance, and customer support costs because the combined Flash/VeriSign service reduces the problems of deploying video on-demand applications across multiple platforms and browsers.

In other words, the two companies can make it easy to seed and distribute video content, as long as it is published to the Kontiki platform and uses Flash. The Adobe-VeriSign combo could also help overcome some of the issues surrounding the current torrent-based content distribution systems.

There are fears that a coming balkanization of BitTorrent resulting from increased commercial efforts will thwart it from becoming a widely adopted distribution platform. And more and more ISPs are increasingly blocking torrent-based content. Kontiki, however, monitors the flow of pieces of content around a network, and should be able to avoid that backlash. This is a way for P2P to really — really — go mainstream.

We will be tracking this story pretty closely, rustling up more details from our sources.

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