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Adobe Media Player Beta Now Available

In Chicago, today, two important events took place. A rally to spur the Cubs on in their quest for the pennant took place at Daley Plaza at noon. A few hours before that, though, at Adobe MAX 2007 in the McCormick Place convention center, the company announced availability of the first beta of its long-awaited desktop video player--the Adobe Media Player.

During a presentation at MAX, Adobe’s worldwide users group meeting, the company showed off the media player, called AMP, and noted that it’s immediately available in pre-release form at labs.adobe.com. This version does not, according to AMP product manager Deeje Cooley, include the underlying technology from the upcoming "Moviestar" Flash player.

"AMP will play traditional Flash video files," said Cooley, "which means Flash 8 [On2 VP6] and Sorenson Spark and H.263. Prior to release, the ‘Moviestar’ technology will be integrated into AMP, allowing H.264 and AAC videos to also play back through AMP."

Building on Adobe’s Flash Video online streaming capability, AMP allows viewers to watch videos online or offline; for those offline viewers, AMP will also track the number of views and report them when an internet connection is available.

To make certain that AMP receives the attention Adobe hopes it will generate, the company also introduced nine media content partners. Of the Big 3 networks, CBS is the only one to commit so far. With NBC still out trying to find itself and its best method of delivery, and ABC firmly in the Steve Jobs camp, it may be some time before all Big 3 networks join the AMP ecosystem.

PBS is also one of the partners, which means some very high-quality content will be available to showcase AMP’s capabilities. The media & marketing firm Meredith Corporation, also was announced as partner, but the rest of the list reads like a who’s who of online video: Yahoo! Video, Blip.tv, Fora.tv, Motionbox, MyToons, and StimTV.

Downloading the beta during the Adobe MAX 2007 keynote, I was struck by two facts: First, AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime, the company’s "Silverlight"-type desktop platform) is required to download AMP, a process that took about three minutes for the 8MB download, even on Adobe’s lightning-fast connection. The subsequent install process is automatic, and no restart was required. Second, as was the case for my attempted installation, if the download doesn’t work, then the browser cache must be cleared. Clearly, this is still beta software.

The AMP player itself weighs in fairly lightly at 862KB.

"H.264 in the Flash player is a must have," said Kevin Lynch, senior VP of Adobe’s platform business unit, during the MAX 2007 keynote. "We’ve worked with Yahoo! So what do they say about H.264? They have plenty of HD content and want H.264 as part of Flash inside an online player."

"The Adobe Media Player is designed to guide and orient the user," said Adobe president and COO Shantanu Narayen during the keynote. "We’ve created the Glide UI [user interface] as a way to use movement as meaning. But we’re looking to create an experience, not a UI."

Besides AMP, Adobe also posted pre-release versions of Flex and AIR, including Dreamweaver and Flash plug-ins at the labs.adobe.com site. MAX 2007 continues in Chicago until Wednesday.

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