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Flashforward Austin: Flash Enters Its Second Decade

The temperature was scorching and a buzz was in the air anticipating hot news from Adobe at last week’s Flashforward conference in Austin, Texas. Though there were no groundbreaking reveals, there was a palpable excitement among the nearly 2,000 attendees about this new era in Flash development, now officially entering its second decade. Video has proven to be the fuel for the fire for the Flash platform this year, with new online video applications popping up almost daily.

Apollo, Adobe’s rich internet application platform, and Flex2, the company’s web application development software, took center stage from day one, with Kevin Lynch showing off the remarkably smooth-running beta of FlexBuilder2 for Macintosh.

The elephant in the room—digital rights management and Flash’s lack thereof—was never specifically addressed by Adobe, but remains a hot topic among content providers. When asked if there are any plans for implementing a DRM solution during an impromptu "Q&A with the Engineers" session, senior Flash product manager Mike Downey hinted that Apollo applications, which will run from the desktop, may offer some potential for developers to build custom solutions.

Direct questions about Flash’s current lack of DRM for progressive video delivery were met with a referral by another company spokesperson to Adobe’s standard statement: For the use cases that Flash Video is used for today—i.e., delivery of video in the context of a web page, when a user is connected to theinternet—the Flash Media Server offers great digital media protection capabilities. These protection capabilities are outlined here and are in use by a number of major broadcasters to delivery studio produced content on the web today.

The solution to discouraging video piracy, for now, remains Flash Media Server streaming. Despite—or perhaps because of—the speed at which DRM solutions are being cracked, it seems Adobe has decided to stay out of the fray.

The exhibit hall was sparse, with only a few vendors setting up shop, including Limelight Networks, Lynda.com, Peachpit Press, Vancouver Film School, VitalStream, and newcomer WowzaTV. Notably absent was Sorenson, which was involved in a flap last week on Flashcomguru.com, Stephan Richter’s Flash Video-focused blog, and much-discussed at the Flashforward conference. Recently, a customer who purchased the Sorenson Squeeze Compression Suite unexpectedly received the following error message: "The monthly encoding limit of 1500 and daily encoding limit of 50 have been reached." A search of the website and knowledge base revealed no mention of this limit. When contacted, the Sorenson channel sales manager replied with a question: "Please explain your business model and let me know what you are doing. Why are you encoding this many files per day?"

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