Adobe (s ADBE) is extending its AIR application framework across all three screens with availability on a wide range of mobile devices, as well as Internet-connected TVs. The announcement could give Adobe a huge leg-up in the race to deliver online games and video content to the living room, but it will need wide support from consumer electronics partners.
While the market for apps on TVs and other connected devices in the living room is still nascent today, it will become big business soon. GigaOM Pro analyst Paul Sweeting forecast earlier this year that sales of TV apps will grow to nearly $2 billion worldwide by 2015, from just $10 million in sales today.
That’s a huge opportunity for publishers to reach a rapidly growing audience of consumers with connected devices in the living room. There’s only one problem: The market is incredibly fragmented. Nearly every CE manufacturer has its own app framework, which means that for each device that a publisher wants to develop for, it will have to create a discrete app that won’t work with other CE devices. All of this creates significant overhead for publishers trying to reach a broad audience with their TV apps.
Adobe has the potential to change all that — if it can convince CE makers to deploy AIR in their TVs and other connected living room devices, like Blu-ray players and game consoles. The new Adobe AIR 2.5 theoretically enables publishers to create apps that will work on PCs, mobile handsets, tablets and connected TVs, so the audience opportunity is huge. If Adobe can get more TV makers to embed the AIR framework on their devices, it could provide a way for publishers to reach multiple TV platforms without having to build an app for each one.
The first CE maker to adopt the technology is Samsung, which will have integrated support for AIR in its Smart TV devices. And we can probably expect that future Google TV (s goog) devices could support AIR, since Sony (s SNE) and Logitech (s LOGI) have already built Flash support into TVs, Blu-ray players and broadband set-top boxes that have been shipped.
However, the more CE manufacturers that join Adobe, the less valuable their own efforts become. The Samsung announcement is interesting if only because it has invested pretty heavily in its own TV app framework. Samsung announced in August a $500,000 app contest to encourage developers to build applications to run across its TV platform. It expects to have more than 200 apps available on its devices by the end of the year. (To hear more about Samsung’s connected device strategy, come see Samsung’s Director of Content Olivier Manuel at NewTeeVee Live on November 10 in San Francisco.)
At the same time, the sunk cost might be worth it if multiple manufacturers can point to Adobe’s AIR as the go-to app development framework for TVs and other devices in the living room. If that were to happen, publishers would be able to — for the first time — reach a critical mass of consumers with a single app. Which would be a huge win for the industry, but most of all for Adobe.
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