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Is Adobe Really Playing the Lock-in Game With Flash Video?

Fri, 24 Aug 2007 22:36:00 GMT

So, you aren't going to be locked in to buy On2's codec... but looks like despite the fact that they are using an open standard, if you want to intelligently stream the video you will be locked into buying Flash Media Server: The Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) is responsible for licensing of all the MPEG technologies including H.264. As an open industry standard, H.264 content should be playable on any number of devices. And this is where Adobe is making a terrible mistake. Most websites, YouTube included, use a technique known as progressive downloading to stream content from the servers to the client. This technique uses HTTP and therefore is quite limited in what types of interactions can take place between the server and client. Content that is progressively streamed must first be downloaded to the client before it can be played. There are techniques that provide pseudo-streaming using HTTP, but still, interaction is limited to the HTTP protocol. Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) was developed in 1998 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to overcome many of the shortcomings of using HTTP for streaming and to provide a open, standards-based way to stream content from a server to a client. The benefits of using RTSP are numerous and include the ability for a client to request a start time of a audio or video file and the ability for the server to monitor the available bandwidth of the client in real time. According to Tinic Uro’s blog, Adobe will not be implementing RTSP in it’s Flash player. Rather, they will be streaming H.264 (and FLV for that matter) via their own proprietary protocol, RTMP. This is quite unfortunate because even though H.264 is an industry standard, in order to benefit from true streaming technology, you’ll have to use Adobe’s proprietary Flash Media Server which implements RTMP. This is bad news for everyone. Because RTSP (and RTMP) implements client/server interaction, bandwidth could be drastically reduced. Imagine YouTube, or any other video sharing site, having chapters or sections of a video that could be played without having to start at the beginning or having to wait for the video to progressively download. Imagine being able to click anywhere on a videos timeline and have that video start playing , instantaneously. This is possible with a true streaming solution, but with Flash it will only be possible with Flash Media Server. Vendor lock-in seems to be the game Adobe is willing to play. To me, this is completely outrageous and I implore Adobe to reconsider this decision. I understand that Adobe is a business and must make a profit. But the decision to not support RTSP hurts education, non-profits and small business, most of whom could not afford the high price tag of Flash Media Server in the first place. By contrast, a number of open source RTSP server implementations exist which are free of charge, including Darwin Streaming Server from Apple. If Flash supported RTSP, I believe the Internet would spawn a new generation of video sites, with new functionality and even greater interactivity. Think of a JumpCut, YouTube, Digg and Pownce fusion. This process alone would help Adobe sell users on their AIR and Flex platform because of the increased interactivity. With Adobe’s decision, it’s unfortunate that innovation in the online video arena will crawl along at it’s current rate [1] I don't think it's fair to say that Adobe is merely doing this to force you to buy copies of FMS. FMS hasn't had a reason to support RTSP, since it's been using proprietary video formats for all these years. So, there probably have been zero plans and few good reasons to take the time to implement RTSP in FMS. However, now that FMS will be getting H.264 broadcast support, it will be able to stream to other clients. This opens up FMS itself to be a platform for media delivery to all kinds of consumers instead of just the Flash player. But... at that point it really isn't FMS anymore is it? I'm not sure that Adobe is really wanting to get in the media encoding business right n[...]



Silverlight Forcing Macromedia to Rethink

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 08:45:00 GMT

Many Flash developers have been complaining about the choice of On2's codec over a standard like H.264 for years. Interestingly, Adobe is finally adding support for some standard video codecs in the next version of Flash. The question is, how much did Silverlight have to do with this decision? The timing sure makes it seem like a reactive decision. In any case, it's good news for video on the web.

[1] http://www.kaourantin.net/2007/08/what-just-happened-to-video-on-web_20.html#comments




Flash: Now Slowing Down Your Multi-Core PC

Sat, 16 Jun 2007 07:19:00 GMT

"As I mentioned in Flash Player Update 3 we finally realized that multi-core CPUs are here to stay. So why not follow the times and take advantage of it? As most of you hard core Flash developers know, rendering is a huge bottleneck. I've seen a couple of blog post complaining that their second core/CPU is  not doing anything when they run the Flash Player. Well people, this is about to change in this update." [1]

I suppose you could argue the ability to split work across multiple CPUs is a good thing... however, this is just a sign that they really just need to start pushing some of this work to the GPU instead of taking up more and more CPU power (both Silverlight and Flash will be using the GPU to some degree with video... why not push a little more down the pipe?). One GPU can do far more rendering than a couple CPU cores, and the gap is only going to widen in the future. I can see how multi-core rendering might be useful, but I actually like the fact that on my multi-core machines the processes that are going bonkers are capped at 100% of one core. That means I still have 50% of my CPU power available to make sure the rest of my machine is still responsive and I can still click on buttons in other apps. Are Flash movies really getting to the point where they need to suck up this much juice? Looks like with the next update of the Flash Player, an over the top Flash movie will once again be able to drag down the performance of my entire machine.

[1] http://www.kaourantin.net/2007/06/multi-core-support.html

 

 




Java FX: Sun Wants a Piece

Tue, 08 May 2007 19:40:00 GMT

"The demand continues to grow for secure, interactive content, applications, and services that run on a variety of clients. To simplify and speed the creation and deployment of high-impact content for a wide range of devices, Sun is introducing JavaFX, a new family of products based on Java technology designed to enable consistent user experiences, from desktop to mobile device to set-top box to Blu-ray Disc."

Sounds like a direct competitor to Silverlight and Flash... but didn't Sun already try something like this and fail? Well... interesting news is that it's scripting language based and completely GPL. So, you have Silverlight which is closed source, Flash which is partially open (you can license the player code), and JavaFX which is completely open. Something for everyone. Looks like JavaFX is going for ultra reach though with support of Blu-ray and set-top boxes. Doesn't look like they are really targetting designers and experience though, just the reach portion. My guess, it won't clash with Silverlight or Flash any time in the near future. It will be used for those horribly ugly set top box interfaces brought to you by your local cable provider.

In any case, with the DLR for Silverlight, Actionscript for Flash, and now JavaFX Script for JavaFX it looks like scripting languages are making a comeback.

[1] http://www.sun.com/software/javafx/




Flash + JVM = Smiles

Tue, 08 May 2007 00:59:00 GMT

At its JavaOne conference, which kicks off in San Francisco on May 8, Sun is promising a major technology unveiling, code-named "Project Indiana."

My ZDNet blogging colleage Ed Burnette is speculating that Sun might unveil a head-to-head competitor to Microsoft's Silverlight, a k a "Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere."

Sun still isn't talking. But its execs are dropping hints all over. And it sounds like at least part of Sun's announcement could involve a deal with Adobe, via which Sun will be distributing the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) as part of Adobe Flash.

This would be an interesting development. It could explain why Adobe was ready to give away the ecmascript compiler source for free to Mozilla, since the JVM being included could make actionscript a thing of the past. It would also make their use of Eclipse for the Flex Builder IDE a more sane choice. This would be a step closer to the right direction for Adobe. Setting aside the the whole MS vs. Adobe war, however, supporting .NET and the CLR would be 10x sexier than including a VM that already failed to capture the hearts of client app developers the first time around. In any case, it's not unfathomable for Adobe to outsource some core technology like this to another company. Macromedia has been doing that for their video codecs since the first version of Flash that supported video. We'll have to wait and see, but if I had to bet, I'd bet that any ties between Sun and Adobe would have something to do with Apollo or Flex not the closely gaurded core of the Flash player... but who knows, Adobe is pretty good at creating bloatware ;).

[1] http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=424

 

Update: Sun announced Java FX which indeed competes with Silverlight and Flash http://www.sun.com/software/javafx/




If Adobe was Smart...

Mon, 07 May 2007 22:32:00 GMT

They would merge the Flex team and the Flash player team, and truely support things like MXML in the player. Why in the world do you need 2 entirely different ways to build applications in Flash? Why doesn't the Flash player itself understand Flex MXML? Why must Adobe's resources be split trying to build, promote, support, and refine two entirely different experiences for application developers? IMO, collapsing the teams into a single team would be the way to go with the introduction of Silverlight, especially considering that just about everyone on the Adobe side touts Flex as the real competitor to Silverlight, not the Flash IDE... yet all the big bucks are behind Flash, not Flex. It seems to be a given that the Flash IDE itself is needlessly complex and horribly inefficient when trying to do anything other than animation. With the push away from animation to more useful tasks, how can Adobe be missing this important step?



Silverlight vs. Flash: The Developer Story

Thu, 03 May 2007 22:03:00 GMT

A few people didn’t like my proclaimation that Flash is dead. This is understandable. It is a bit premature to make such claims, but the Silverlight model is pretty amazing. As someone who works with Flash on an ongoing basis, I thought I'd chime in with a more in depth look at the issues. First off, let me explain my background for those of you who may not know. Way back in the day, when Flash 4 was the latest and greatest, Macromedia decided to “open up” the Flash file format. They released documentation (which was poor at best) and an SDK (which was horrible at best). I saw the potential here. Finally, the format third party developers could unleash their creativity and usher in all kinds of amazing tools. Unfortunately, the documentation was full of errors and the SDK was so riddled with bugs that you spent more time debugging it than using it. Nevertheless, debug I did. I came up with quite a list of fixes to the SDK, fixes which would render it near complete and bug free. I signed up for a free hosting account and promptly placed a list of the updates you had to make to the SDK in order for it to be bug free online. Macromedia’s response: cease and decist. Rather than integrating the changes themselves or acknowledging that they solved a serious problem, they told me that it was a violation of the license agreement to be posting that kind of information…. Some definition of “open” they have there. Not to be dismayed, I determined that the source code license was just far to restrictive then and I would create my own SDK. As familiar with the spec as I had become, it didn’t take long for me to put something together. In a few short weeks, I had an SDK that was far more complete, far less buggy, and far easier to work with than the Macromedia SDK. It wasn’t long before hundreds, then thousands of developers were downloading the SDK and posts to Macromedia’s own open-swf forum turned from questions about the Macromedia SDK to questions about this new alternative SDK. It wasn’t too long before Macromedia completely discontinued their SDK (rumor has it that product teams internal to Macromedia even considered using the SwfSource code for their own projects).Ever since then, I've been working with the Flash File Format. I've helped put together some award winning tools that are arguably some of the most successful SWF generation tools outside of Macromedia. This gives be a unique perspective on the differences between the two formats and how these formats enable developers to create tools that work with each of them.Admittedly, my view point isn’t the same as  a lot of people, who are perfectly content just buying the Flash IDE and can do everything they will ever need to do from there. I create tools that work with the File Format itself, tools that export their content into the Flash Format. So, if you are a software developer like myself (which is probably a good chance if you are reading this blog), then you would almost assuredly come to the same exact conclusion as myself if you knew the details of the two formats.AnimationThe Flash format itself has no notion of animation other than transformation matrices. You can apply a matrix to an element on a per frame basis to move it around. Want to move something across the screen in 3 seconds? Calculate how many frames 3 seconds will take, then calculate the matrixes required for each frame along the way. Oh, and don’t forget that the player won’t actually maintain any frame rate unless you embed blank audio tracks, so that 3 seconds might turn out to be 2 or 6 or 5, it just depends what kind of mood the machine is in.Silverlight supports the WPF animation model, which is not only time based instead of frame based, but lets you define the start and end conditions and it will figure out how to ge[...]



JD Confused

Thu, 05 Apr 2007 15:46:00 GMT

JD is confused about the statement made in a MS presentation with don and chris:

Chris: We’ve made our intentions clear with WPF/E; we’re not pretending [like Adobe is with Flash] that it is some kind of open standard. People are saying that Flash is good and WPF/E is evil, but we actually think our story is better [for the community] here.

JD says:

But I'd still like to hear from Chris and Don what they actually said and meant with quotes like "adobe pretends flash is standard"...

Adobe pretending Flash is an open standard is really quite easy to understand. Adobe gives the impression that Flash is open and does things like put out specs for each revision of the file format... however, unlike truely open specs, you don't even get to see the spec until a year or two after they ship the product that the spec corresponds to. Even then, the format itself contains proprietary sections like On2's video format. You can't even deal with those parts of the format without paying ridiculous licensing fees (like, $60,000 to get started with the On2 SDK and then royalties on your product). So, is Flash really open? Far from it. Remove the proprietary garbage or offer free SDKs to deal with it, or the format will never truely be open. If all you do is create content with Flex or the Flash IDE, this isn't something you have to worry about, but if you work for a vendor that creates tools that use the Flash file format as I do, then it becomes a huge pain in the ass.

 

[1] http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2007/04/understanding_f.cfm 




WPF/E Faster than Flash?

Wed, 14 Mar 2007 02:36:00 GMT

Been busy launching a new product for the last few months (http://www.articulate.com/products/articulate-online.php), but getting some time to hit the blogs and noticed this tidbit: 

"Here are results I got testing with 16 balls on my Pentium M 1.7 laptop:

BrowserDHTMLFlexFlex (caching)WPF/eWPF
IE 6.05661908499
Firefox 2.0.0.1555260-90*58-
Opera 9.019450100--

The unexpected is that WPF/e is faster than Flash despite the fact that it’s been in the market for years. I haven’t had a chance to test on Mac yet and tested with IE 7.0 on different machine (it seemed relatively slower but can’t actually compare). "

[1] http://metalinkltd.com/?p=93




Adobe Confusion

Wed, 08 Nov 2006 03:33:00 GMT

As I pointed out earlier, Adobe has just donated their action script VM to Mozilla to be used in Firefox. This is really cool. For one, the VM is supposed to provide huge performance boosts. Secondly, it will ensure that your JS code works in both Firefox and Apollo to ease the migration path. However, I have to scratch my head and ask, "Why the hell didn't they donate it to WebKit/Safari?" After all, they are writing Apollo on top of WebKit, not the Mozilla's code. It is really quite amazing to me that they are investing so much in Mozilla when they are building their own platform on top of a completely different code base. Why not just build Apollo on top of Mozilla and reap the benefits of your Mozilla improvements?

Besides that, part of the philosophy of open source is that you are supposed to give back and contribute when you use someone's code. Way to rip off the WebKit engine for Apollo and then slap them in the face by giving Mozilla the VM code. If I was a WebKit dev, I think this would tick me off a bit.

[1] http://weblogs.asp.net/jezell/archive/2006/11/07/Mozilla-_2B00_-Adobe-_3D00_-Love.aspx

PS: Good luck Mozilla team, I've seen some of the code that has come out of Macromedia's doors in the past, and it wasn't pretty :)



Mozilla + Adobe = Love

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 08:35:00 GMT

"Tamarin project: Big news. Adobe contributes a significant amount of scripting-engine source code to Mozilla Foundation. In essence, the high-performance scripting in Adobe Flash Player 9 will soon be available in Firefox, Thunderbird, and other applications. Upside: much of the logic engine in Adobe Flash Player will go opensource, and a wide range of people can contribute to its success. Downside (I'm guessing): short-term confusion as we all understand the story, and possibly cloning risks from incomplete engines. See FAQ for best current info. There's an IRC chat with Brendan Eich at 10am PST Tuesday. I'll be updating this post with more resources as they appear; tomorrow I'll start a post with links to blogosphere opinions and questions, and likely a third post providing background to the Adobe Flash Player and its Virtual Machine for those studying up on the area. The Adobe Engagement Platform enables creators to engage their audiences, across operating systems, across browsers, across devices." [1]

[1] http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2006/11/tamarin_project.cfm




AJAX > Flash in 2007

Thu, 05 Oct 2006 10:10:00 GMT

"Ektron and SitePoint did a survey of 5,000 web developers over the US summer, and have just released  the results in a report entitled The State of Web Development 2006/2007. It's packed full of useful data, even in the 25-page preview (which is free). The bits that particularly interested me were the following two charts, on which web technologies developers and organizations are using now - and plan to use in future.

(image)

Interestingly AJAX is not that far behind Flash (which has been around for much longer). Blogs are well-used, while wikis not so - no real surprise there, as blogs are generally easier to use. Syndication / RSS at 36% is still a little low, but I predict it'll be much higher next year thanks to the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo bringing it into the mainstream.

(image)

I'm quite surprised that syndication is not being planned to use more, as to my mind RSS and syndication has only just scratched the surface of development opportunities. Custom search is another that I pick to be used more - yet it's slated to go down in this report! But other than that, most technologies will apparently be used more - in particular Ajax, which next year is predicted to surpass Flash for the first time. Microformats are probably a 'long bet', as it's still low on peoples radar according to this report..." [1]

Interesting... 

[1] http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/readwriteweb/~3/32705855/the_state_of_web_development.php




Macromedia Central: A Complete Failure?

Thu, 05 Oct 2006 00:54:00 GMT

It's been out for years now. Guess what, on the official central page, you can chose from a vast array of 22 central applications now (including the ones Macromedia released back in 2003), the last of which was made available over a year ago. This represents a total of 12 people who bought into the whole Central develpment thing. For a company as big as Macromedia, that is beyond sad. It's almost laughable. But, it's not suprising. I told you this would happen. Will Apollo fair any better? We'll just have to wait and see if they have a better licensing model this time around.

[1] http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/central/index.cfm#loc=en_us&view=appfinder&viewName=Application%20Finder&avm=1




SVG is Dead

Thu, 07 Sep 2006 04:39:00 GMT

Via JD, Adobe has killed all future SVG player development. With Adobe out of the game due to Flash and Microsoft out of the game with WPF/E, we are one step closer to SVG being know as the vector graphics betamax.

[1] http://www.adobe.com/svg/eol.html

[2] http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2006/09/adobe_svg_viewe.cfm 




Business Week on Elop

Mon, 19 Jun 2006 16:53:00 GMT

Via JD:

"In January, Stephen Elop sat on a chair in a plush conference room and talked about his decision to sell Macromedia to Adobe (ADBE). He was calm and jovial, describing the process of Adobe Chief Executive Bruce Chizen "courting" him. Elop talked about their first "date" at a cheesy Italian restaurant in Santa Clara, Calif. He went on about Chizen's assurances that Adobe needed not only Macromedia's market-leading Web design software (Flash and Dreamweaver), its developing mobile business, and sales contacts at big corporate customers, but the Macromedia DNA. What Chizen was after, Elop recalled, was the hipper, scrappier spirit that pervades the San Francisco company and that was lacking the relatively stodgier San Jose-based Adobe. (Bruce) wasn't just using us for our Flash," joked Elop at the time..."

I'm suprised there hasn't been more commentary on this. Everyone knows that Adobe bought Macromedia for Flash. Why else? Like they really needed to buy Fireworks and Freehand? Maybe you could argue that Dreamweaver was a good acquisition, but I tend to think of that more as a bonus than anything else. The fact is that Adobe just doesn't have the same vision as Macromedia. For example, Macromedia had a major focus on the eLearning space and Adobe seems to be less than enthusiastic about those products. A lot of people on a lot of Macromedia product teams have left or been forced to leave. Elop is just another casulty.

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2006/tc20060619_746167.htm




SWF, is it Really Open?

Mon, 05 Jun 2006 16:44:00 GMT

So, Adobe is threatening to sue Microsoft in regard to supporting PDF and XPS in Office... I wonder what is going to happen with the supposedly open SWF format... It's a good thing Microsoft didn't follow JD's advice and integrate it into their products. But I wonder.... if Microsoft bundles WPF/E with future Vista or IE versions, will Adobe sue to remove WPF/E?



WPF/E

Wed, 24 May 2006 01:47:00 GMT

Tim Anderson has some commentary on WPF/E. He sums up his thoughts like this: In the past Microsoft has been characterised by its single-minded focus on Windows. Why does it now want to create a cross-platform runtime engine? It is the clearest sign yet that it can no longer base its entire strategy on the Windows client monopoly. Microsoft’s problem is not only Apple and Linux chipping away at its desktop empire, but more seriously the rising importance of two other computing platforms where it is a minority player. The first is the web, and the second is mobile devices. It happens that WPF/E is also intended for device use, though Microsoft will probably struggle even more than Adobe to get its runtime embedded onto third-party hardware. It is completely untrue to say that Microsoft has been characterised by a "single-minded focus on Windows." The fact is that Microsoft ported the most important software in the world, other than Windows to Mac a long time ago. It's called Office. IE runs on Mac. Rotor runs on Linux. Microsoft has an award winning set of services written for UNIX computers. etc. etc. Yes, most of Microsoft's products are written for Windows. Making WPF/E available doesn't change that fact, nor does it change the fact that most of Microsoft's desktop apps are going to remain Windows only. So, the statement that, "It is the clearest sign yet that [Microsoft] can no longer base its entire strategy on the Windows client monopoly" are completely false. First off, Microsoft has never based its entire strategy on the Windows client. Secondly, those parts of Microsoft's strategy that do involve the Windows client are going to continue to do so. Tim's comments are the result of misunderstanding of the nature of browser plugins like WPF/E and Flash. The very fact that Tim states that, "Potentially, WPF/E could combine the design appeal of Flash with the application strength of Java" shows that he really doesn't know what he is talking about. WPF (not WPF/E) is the platform that combines design appeal with application strength. Both Java and the .NET framework can do leaps and bounds more than either WPF/E or Flash and that isn't going to change. Browser plugins do not now, and will not any time in the future, be intended for building traditional desktop applications. They certainly don't support 3D functionality required for games and can't take advantage of huge portions of the platforms they are running on. These technologies are display only for the most part. They generally assume that you are going to have a web server somewhere to store data and query data and that your connection to the internet is going to remain active. What are these client side browser plug-ins good at? Right now, they are best at augmenting existing sites with compelling media. WPF/E shows a lot of potential for replacing AJAX as a means of providing rich interactivity on the web, however, the kinds of apps we are talking about replacing are HTML / DHTML / Flash apps or your internal apps that probably could have been taken care of with HTML / DHTML / Flash to begin with. I'm sure someone will try to build a Word Processor with WPF/E. I'm sure someone will try to build games with WPF/E. I'm sure someone will try to build all kinds of abominable applications with WPF/E, but they aren't going to measure up to their client side counterparts (take a look at Office 2007, there is no way you could build it with WPF/E). So, what is Microsoft's move to provide a Flash alternative a sign of? First off, Microsoft has realized that there is a lot of money to be made in the web development space. This isn't a new [...]