Adobe's Open Screen Project: Bigger Than the iPhone



Adobe (s adbe) today unveiled a new version of Flash in an effort to expand support for the popular technology beyond the traditional Internet to mobile phones, netbooks, set-top boxes and other connected consumer devices. Flash Player 10.1 will run on platforms including Google’s (s goog) Android, Research In Motion’s (s rimm) BlackBerry, Microsoft’s (s msft) Windows Mobile, Nokia’s (s nok) Symbian and Palm’s (s palm) webOS. Conspicuous in its absence, of course, was Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone.

While Adobe has said it is working with Apple, there’s still no word on a version for the iPhone — which dominates traffic on the wireless web.  However, Adobe made another announcement today — it has updated the participants in its Open Screen Project, an 18-month-old initiative promoting Flash to bridge the substantial gaps that exist between the “PC web” and other platforms such as mobile and consumer devices, to include Google and RIM.

Flash has become ubiquitous on the Internet, where it is used to support animated graphics and interactive functionality for web pages and advertisements. But that ubiquity is a problem for anyone who wants to bring the web to devices that aren’t built on traditional x86 hardware or operating systems that aren’t designed to run Flash.

The lack of support for Flash has been a substantial problem on the mobile web, where browsers and transcoding technologies have had to strip out Flash-based applications entirely as they format web content for handsets, delivering an inferior experience for mobile users. So Adobe last year created the Open Screen Project in conjunction with several media and technology heavyweights including MTV Networks, ARM, Cisco (s csco), Intel (s intc), LG Electronics and Verizon Wireless to make sure anyone who wants to watch web-based video can, no matter the device or the software.

So while the iPhone is an important mobile platform, the Open Screen Project, and bringing Flash to everything, is a far bigger play. Google’s announcement today that it will join the project shouldn’t be read merely as a mobile phone play, but also as a deeper effort to bring Android to consumer devices like set-top boxes and digital photo frames. With the strong presence of Flash on the web and a program like the Open Screen Project, Adobe has bought Flash a bigger future as the web moves beyond the PC and even smartphones.

For example, the inclusion of so many handset makers in the project reflects how much work ARM, the company that licenses its IP cores to mobile handset makers, has done to make sure Flash can run on chips containing ARM cores. ARM showed off Flash 10 running on its architecture last November, and is pushing its chips deep into netbooks, set-top boxes and other consumer devices. It’s no coincidence that Intel, with its x86-based chips that the web was originally built on, is also trying to follow the web into those devices. If ARM hadn’t embraced Flash, it’s a good bet that the web experience on gadgets using ARM chips would have turned consumers and, thus, device makers, off.

So for those keeping track, Adobe plans to have versions of Flash 10.1 for Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, webOS and Windows Mobile by next year. But keep an eye on the Open Screen Project and Flash’s move beyond handsets and PCs in the coming months. The iPhone is awesome, but getting the full web experience on your set-top box or TV is something that represents a far bigger opportunity.


les madras

i think the importance of flash for mobile is stated accurately in the post. of course, google boosters might disagree, but flash is bloody good despite adobe’s bumbling business execution.

Tim F.

Meh. Seems like some of your conclusions are reaching. Should I really assume that Google thinks Flash isn’t only important but is also their gateway into new consumer-oriented devices besides phones, or is it simpler to think that it was a no brainer to join in on support when Flash and ARM have built support for just about every device they will be on; when they are trying to push something called the Open Handset Alliance, it’s probably not a bad idea to support the Open Screen Alliance; and becuse it’s a cheap bullet point advantage over their strongest competitor in this space, Apple.

Also, I don’t see how a bunch of phone manufacturers supporting the group proves that ARM believes Flash is important to its success thus they must bring it to all of their devices. It shows me that pretty much all of the phone manufacturers have standardized on ARM and that ARM is important to any device manufacturer, but it doesn’t tell me how important Flash is to ARM. Etc…

Stacey Higginbotham

Tim, ARM has spent a lot of PR effort explaining how Flash is one of the key technologies it has to support to make sure its architecture can match x86 when it comes to delivering a good consumer web experience.

Tim F.

Pushing money at PR doesn’t tell me anything about technology, sorry.

ARM could tell me directly, “Flash is the only thing that makes our platform viable,” and I would still find the statement “If ARM hadn’t embraced Flash, it’s a good bet that the web experience on gadgets using ARM chips would have turned consumers and, thus, device makers, off” completely nonsensical.

Everyone would abandon ARM in smartphones and other handheld devices without Flash, really? Someone is actually saying that besides Adobe?

Gerard Byrne

Placing “lack of support for flash” and “delivering an inferior experience for mobile users” in the same sentence is an example of oxymoron.

Regurgitating from a corporate press release (as in “while the iPhone is an important mobile platform, the Open Screen Project, and bringing Flash to everything, is a far bigger play”) signifies an entire lack of understanding as to where Google and Apple are heading with HTML5 and CSS. Flash is so yesterday. None of the key players (including Microsoft) are going to submit to Adobe controlling the content delivery standard.

Lets review in 2 years time. This article is going to look silly in terms of its appreciation of where the real action is heading.

Mishan Kontroll

Yeah, given how bad Flash still is on PCs after all these years, you have to wonder how well Adobe can do on mobile devices. It’s no wonder Apple wants to keep Flash off the iPhone, where its CPU-hogging and poor performance would probably drain your battery pretty fast. To keep my laptop from running its fans full-blast and draining the battery, I have to close any browser windows with Flash trash in them — probably not what websites want users to do.

I listened to a favorite radio program yesterday using Flash-based MP3 streaming, and the damn browser was using 50% of my CPU! Just to play back MP3! I would have switched to some other stream so I could work a little faster, but KCRW offers only Flash.

Flash video playback is astonishingly taxing of CPU resources: a YouTube clip uses a lot of CPU time whereas a standard def DVD or DivX hardly makes my computer break a sweat.

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