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Adobe to Bring Flash Access to Mobile Devices

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Flash Access—Adobe's proprietary digital rights management (DRM) solution—is finally making its way to the fastest-growing segment of the online video viewing market: smartphones and tablets.

"In the few months since Flash Access launched in mid-2010," writes Florian Pestoni, Adobe's principal product manager of rich media solutions, "there has been strong adoption worldwide, which is now supported on well over 85% of all internet-connected computers."

Flash Access works in conjunction with the company's Flash Media Server (FMS). Flash Access authenticates and allows viewers to view rights-managed content, acting as a stand-alone "toll booth" operator to FMS's "traffic cop" streaming solution.

Pestoni brings up an impressive figure—85% of all internet-connected computers—making Flash Access an easy-to-implement solution for a number of studios and other premium content holders or distributors. 

As we discussed in the Adobe Flash Roadmap article in May 2010, when we first looked at Flash Access 2.0, the DRM solution required other tools to successfully implement an inclusive DRM solution for the desktop: Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe's HTTP Dynamic Streaming.

Neither of those were shipping at that time, but Adobe eventually rolled each of those tools out and Flash Access now commands an impressive addressable base.

In the same vein, Adobe understands that in 2011  it has to address the mobile handset and tablet market, especially given the push the company is making into the TV Everywhere space with Adobe Pass, which we covered last week.

"[Flash Access] is coming to mobile devices, including Android tablets and other mobile platforms, in the second half of 2011," writes Pestoni. "This will extend the opportunities for monetization of premium content to more points of playback and will help consumers enjoy premium content on (most of) their favorite devices."

The "(most of)" comment addresses the issue of the elephant in the room—the iOS operating system used in iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices.

We noted in our article that Adobe also has an answer, in the form of JavaScript and cookies, to at least identify non-Flash-based devices. Yet Adobe Pass can't do device binding security for HTML-only devices, so the ability to extend Flash Access to these devices is moot.

In the interim, I have heard of at least one company approaching the device-binding for iOS devices in a novel way, but the company is not choosing to make its news public until the National Association of Broadcasters' show in Las Vegas, which starts on April 11, 2011.

In the meantime, Adobe Pass service customers will have to settle for a unique identifier based on metadata shared between the service provider and the Adobe Pass service, offering only offering browser cookies for iOS-based devices.

One final area of interest for Flash Access is the growth of security concerns within enterprise, when it comes to mobile devices. The issue front and center with many IT departments, with the trend moving away from PCs and toward mobile devices.

Along the way, some of the technology providers in the space are taking a cue from the media content and controlled-access media market technologies that have been around for several years, offering solutions that sandbox—or segment off—corporate content that may reside on an employee's personal mobile device.

But none of these solutions really address video rights management—and the potential to remotely disable playback of video content—the way that Flash Access potentially could function on Android devices.

Which brings up an interesting point: is Flash Access's next growth area, beyond the premium content owners and content delivery network (CDN) customers that it is working with today, the enterprise? Adobe has certainly been pushing hard to get a greater share of the enterprise market, with the introduction of Flash Media Enterprise Server last fall.

One could make an argument that mission-critical or competition-sensitive video content on employee's personal or corporate-issued devices is the ultimate premium content, and it would seem that enterprises might pay a premium to guarantee the ability to remotely sandbox—or even eliminate—the critical video content that Flash Access is attempting to protect.

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