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Q&A With Adobe's Chris Hock

Chris Hock is Group Product Manager for the Adobe Dynamic Systems group. In short, the dude responsible for Flash. Here are his thoughts on the Flash codec and the new Adobe Media Player, particularly in response to Microsoft’s introduction of new Windows Media Video profiles (about which I interviewed Ben Waggoner here).

It used to be that the best quality codec had a distinct advantage. How has the market changed?
Today the distinct advantage goes to the platform that can reach the most people with the least amount of hassle! This is particularly true for web-based, consumer-focused content such as media & entertainment and advertising. Users don’t want to hassle with having to download different codecs or upgrade to new operating systems to watch video on the web. They want to simply select a video clip to play and have it start playing immediately. Similarly, publishers don’t want a flood of customer support requests and bad feedback because their site visitors can’t watch the video because they don’t have the right OS or player. Flash has been able to gain a strong presence with publishers of web video because it can reach the widest audience.

OK, makes sense. But if the new advanced profile WMV codec is 50% better than VP6, does that matter?
The codec is only one piece of the equation when making a decision about video formats. The better question to ask is not whose codec is better than whose, but rather how can you reach the largest percentage of your target audience and deliver the best possible overall experience.

Because most modern codecs used for web video have roughly the same quality, other aspects of the experience—Can you deliver consistently great video across multiple operating systems and browsers? Does the video start instantly? Is the viewer subjected to an annoying download? Is the video seamlessly integrated into the total package such that the whole experience is engaging?—become more important. Adobe focuses not only on continuing to improving the quality of video in Flash, but also on continuing to improve the whole user experience as well.

Seems like a growing market for streaming is software-based instruction. Windows Media has a very strong codec for this; Flash doesn’t seem to. Any plans for this?

Adobe is extremely strong in software- and web-based instruction. The capabilities in the Flash platform to combine high quality live or on-demand video seamlessly with graphics, animations, text, as well as interactive learning elements make Flash a natural choice for software based instruction. Adobe products such as Acrobat Connect, Flash CS3 Professional, Authorware, Captivate, Director, RoboHelp, Visual Communicator, Adobe Presenter, Flash Media Server, and our Creative Suite products enable rapid training and eLearning content creation and the ability to share that content live, on-demand or via virtual classrooms.

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