Google TV May Not Miss Flash ... Eventually
In the beginning was WebTV, the first-over-the-top experience that gave mere mortals the ability to view web pages on their televisions. Of course, they weren't faithful replications of web pages, and since it was the salad days of dial-up in the 1990s interwebs, it wasn't that fast either.
Then came the barren years. Then came Google TV.
Now, it appears, we may be in for a few more desert years. Logitech's new chief executive officer, Guerrino De Luca, used last week's analyst call—his first after replacing former executive Gerald Quindlen—to leave no question as to where the Google TV-powered Revue set-top box stood in the pantheon of failed Logitech endeavors.
"A full scale launch with a beta product cost us dearly, said De Luca, referring to the Google TV operating system as the "beta" while announcing a loss of "well over $100 million in operating profits," which he blamed on both the Logitech Revue and "operational miscues in EMEA."
"It was a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature,” he said. "We have no plans to introduce another box to replace Revue."
De Luca made the announcement to kill off the Logitech Revue just a week after a "new and improved" sticker started showing on Revue boxes at Best Buy and a few other big-box retailers in the United States. The improvement was an update to the Google TV operating system to Android OS version 3.1 and the Android App Store.
Turns out the stickers were premature, as the update wasn't actually on the Revue boxes being sold at that time. Both Logitech and Google offered assurances, however, to their commitment to both the software and hardware for the original Revue box.
"Logitech remains committed to all of its Logitech Revue customers," a company spokesperson told Wired.com. "We will continue to provide them with customer support under our warranty policy."
GoogleTV's Twitter account notes that updates to the Logitech Revue, which is dubs Google TV v2, will be available in a matter of weeks, and a Logitech spokesperson confirmed that "once available, the next release of the Google TV software will be a free and automatic update pushed to all Logitech Revue boxes that are installed and connected to the Internet."
The bigger question in all this, though, remains unasked: What effect does Adobe's decision to kill off Flash Player browsing on a television mean for Google TV's ability to perform web-page browsing in the Chrome browser, a WebKit-based browser at the heart of the Android operating system for tablets and set-top boxes?
To best understand the dilemma facing Google, one needs to consider the announcement Adobe and Google jointly made when Google TV was first launched as part of Adobe's Digital Home initiative. An Adobe blog post from May 2010 noted integration of Flash Player into the Chrome browser.
"Google TV includes Flash Player 10.1 integrated directly into the Google Chrome browser delivering the full Web to consumers on their television sets," the blog post stated. "The digital home is a huge step for Flash and it represents an amazing new screen for developers and content creators to bring rich interactive content to the TV."
Fast forward to last week to another Adobe blog post, this one by Mike Chambers, Adobe's principal product manager for developer relations for the Flash platform. His blog post brings into focus the reasons stated in last week's article for the demise of the Flash Player plug-in in Digital Home set-top boxes, as well as tablets.
"HTML5 has very strong support on modern mobile devices and tablets," wrote Chambers. "On mobile devices, it has a level of ubiquity similar to what the Flash Player has on the desktop. While performance and implementations haven’t always been great or consistent across devices, they have continued to improve at a pretty dramatic rate."
Chambers noted Canvas improvements on Apple's iOS 5, calling the increased performance "insane" compared to iOS 4. Canvas is an HTML5 vector-based graphics rendering based, in part, on Adobe's Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) that drove early PDF and Flash vector graphics engines. Canvas is an HTML5 raster-based graphics rendering engine which competed with Adobe's vector-based Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) that drove early PDF and Flash vector graphics engines.
Perhaps more pointed, however, is another blog post, by Pritham Shetty, Adobe's vice president for video solutions. We touched briefly on this blog post our article about Adobe' s Flash Player for Mobile strategy, but didn't really delve into just how far Adobe's thinking has come regarding the Digital Home.
"We believe apps, not browsing to a website, will be the primary way viewers access premium video and games on TVs and peripherals," said Shetty, announcing that Adobe does not plan to support web-browser Flash Player plug-ins on set-top boxes.
"Specifically, we will not ensure that, for example, 10 year-old websites will render flawlessly on TVs because most people are not browsing 10 year-old websites on TVs," Shetty said.
All that leads, again, to the question: will Chrome on Google TV continue to support a Google-led source code modification to the Flash Player plug-in for Chrome, or will Google be forced to wait a few months—until Canvas and a few other HTML5 core tools evolve—to roll out the next round of Google TV services?
On the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show, Google makes a splash with key partnerships that promise a strong year for the battered connected TV platform.
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