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Adobe Delivers Flash Access 2.0 and HTTP Dynamic Streaming

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Adobe has certainly been in the news a lot lately, but mostly with another tech giant setting the agenda. It must be some relief for the company, then, to start making major announcements of its own and get back to the business of driving Flash video.

Flash Access 2.0
At the opening day of the Streaming Media East 2010 conference, Adobe issued two pieces of news that could do a lot to quiet critics and expand the use of Flash. First, Adobe is announcing the immediate availability of Flash Access 2.0. Flash Access, previously known as the Adobe Flash Media Rights Management Server,  is Adobe’s content protection system for Flash. With this release, it now works with video played within a browser or Flash player, making AES-encrypted Flash video far more usable. Previously, Flash Access secure content only worked with video played on the AIR desktop runtime. Given that most video is played in a browser and the Flash player still enjoys 91 percent penetration, this is a major step.

Adobe had gotten many requests for the change, says Jennifer Taylor, Adobe’s director of product management for Flash creation and distribution. For end users, the implementation will be transparent, she says. Secured content created by Flash Access 2.0 will require the Flash Player 10.1, which will be released at the end of the first half of the year. Adobe is releasing Flash Access 2.0 well in advance of the new player so that customers have time to integrate it into their workflows.

For media companies worried that viewers won’t upgrade their Flash players and so won’t be able to view protected content, Taylor says that Adobe typically gets 60 to 70 percent adoption within three to four months. Target clients are major media companies that need to protect against piracy so they can charge for content. She added that Adobe would have announcements about partners using Flash Access 2.0 in the next couple weeks, but added that content owners don’t always boast about what protection systems they’re using.

HTTP Dynamic Streaming
The second announcement is that Adobe will begin offering HTTP dynamic streaming with the Flash 10.1 player. This should come as a relief to many. Dynamic streaming is Adobe’s name for adaptive bitrate technology, in which the player automatically chooses the highest bitrate stream for the connection, switching to lower or higher bitrate streams as needed. Up till now, Adobe only offered progressive downloading over HTTP connections. When you play a progressive download file, such as a YouTube clip, you can see the video downloading so you know how far you can skip ahead. With dynamic streaming, you’ll be able to jump ahead to any point and start watching immediately.

The release should make for a better user experience, says Taylor. She adds that Adobe will have a series of partner announcements for HTTP dynamic streaming coming soon.

Adobe has had a rough couple of months, due to Apple embracing HTML5 H.264 video for the iPhone and iPad, and content networks rushing to support the new format. The question everyone will be wondering is will these announcements, big as they are, be enough to stop the migration away from Flash video.

“The conversations happening today are maybe a little short-sighted,” says Taylor. Adobe is working to create a broad multi-screen ecosystem, she says, embracing a variety of handsets and operating systems. In six to nine months, she believes, the space will feel different.

“We believe in the strategy we’ve been executing and we intend to keep on going,” Taylor adds.

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