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NAB 2007: Major Announcements from Microsoft and Adobe Shake Up the World of Online Video

Barberich says that, while Adobe isn't going to monetize the player via licensing fees, putting the player out there supports the company's strategy to "monetize the entire ecosystem, from creation to delivery."

What's In It for Publishers and Advertisers?Publishers will monetize their content via an advertising model built that uses SMiL to deliver pre- and post-roll ads, as well as text-based ads and "bugs"-video, graphic, Flash animation, or text overlays that run on top of the content rather than interrupting it. When content is downloaded, so are the ads, and user information is collected anonymously via cookies whether the content is played back while connected to the internet or offline; if it's viewed offline, the measurements are sent to the advertiser or publisher when the user reconnects.

Of course, with downloadable content comes digital rights management concerns, which Adobe is addressing in two ways. First is what it calls "content integrity protection," wich allows publishers to merge together content and advertising in a way that prevents end users from "pulling apart" the video, says Barberich. "Viewers are presented with the advertising even when the video spreads virally."

Second is "identity-based protection," which locks downloaded Flash Video content to a particular machine or number of machines so that users can't pirate or share it in ways that conflict with the publishers' intentions. Publishers can use both content protection methods, just one, or neither.

What's Under the Hood?
Adobe Media Player is based on Apollo, Adobe's cross-operating system runtime that lets web developers leverage Flash, Flex, HTML, JavaScript, and Ajax to deliver rich internet applications. "Apollo enabled us to develop an application that is playing Flash but also uses HTML in the interface," says Barberich. "That highlights what Apollo is all about, combining those two things in a desktop application. But there's no reason these same components couldn't be used inside of a browser, too."

What Does it All Mean?"It does not come as any surprise that Adobe is looking to release a media player for the desktop, since only providing video within the browser limits the user experience with rich-media content," says industry veteran and Streaming Media executive vice president Dan Rayburn. "Consumers are the ones driving how content is consumed, and they have demanded that video content be accessible via more than just a browser. In addition, content owners are actively pursuing solutions that allow them to better track and monetize their content across the entire life cycle. Until the new Adobe player is available for hands-on evaluation, it's hard to say what impact it will have. That being said, we know it will be something that content owners are going to be very interested in."While Adobe Media Player is clearly at least partially an attempt to compete head-to-head with Windows Media Player by offering downloadable content and DRM, the fact that it doesn't impose Adobe's brand on the player should create a user experience that is more in line with what consumers are demanding in the Web 2.0 world-access to content and the ability to interact with as few intermediaries as possible.

Microsoft Silverlight
At first glance, Microsoft's Silverlight might seem like little more than the diametric opposite of Adobe Media Player, in that it moves video and rich interactive applications into the browser and away from the popular Windows Media Player. But Silverlight represents more than just a 1MB plug-in that supports the viewing of Windows Media Video and Audio along with vector-based graphics, animation, alpha blending, and the like; in other words, a browser plug-in that gives Microsoft a direct competitor to Flash.Microsoft Silverlight

But Microsoft is touting Silverlight as something much more than that, since it’s based on an expanded .NET framework that enables rich interactive application development and delivery, as well as efficient encoding via the new Expression Media Encoder, which can be paired with a Tarari-assisted hardware accelerator, and faster delivery via Longhorn, the code name for the new Windows Server and the IIS7 Media Pack, which enables bit rate throttling and improved caching for CDNs.

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