Adobe’s Flash-y Set-Top Demo at the NAB Show

Mari Silbey —  April 22, 2009

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Adobe’s announcement to bring Flash to the living room is undoubtedly the biggest news out of this year’s NAB show. While much of the focus of the annual event put on by the National Association of Broadcasters goes to the business of producing content, there are always a few flashy tech demos in the mix as well. In this case, flash is the operative word with Adobe making its Flash platform available to hardware manufacturers for use in “Digital Home” devices. According to Adobe, the first devices optimized for Flash will ship in the second half of 2009.

At a time when the convergence of TV and the Internet resembles a snowball rolling downhill, Adobe’s news is like a fresh layer of the white stuff on a steepening slope. Flash means Hulu, YouTube, and more on your TV with apps that can be re-written and customized at will. It brings up a thousand and one questions. How will cable/telco TV providers implement Flash, and what are the implications for their controlled television environments? Is this a competitor to Yahoo Widget TV, or complementary? Will media extenders like Roku gain more traction with the addition of Flash?  (I just plug my netbook right into my TV…) Will greater availability of Flash increase bandwidth usage? And, as Ars Technica points out, will Flash bring your TV to a grinding halt the way it sometimes does to your browser?

My sources trolling the floor at NAB tell me that Adobe’s demo of Flash on a set-top runs surprisingly well – so smooth you can’t tell the difference between it and traditional QAM video delivery. That plus slick HD menus makes the technology drool-worthy. Will it play out as beautifully in the real world? Probably not in the near term, but Flash certainly opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for the future.

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7 responses to Adobe’s Flash-y Set-Top Demo at the NAB Show

  1. Sweet!!! The future is looking good :)

  2. Nice report, Mari. I think you covered all the bases. The only additional note would be the obvious one–will Hulu et al let their content be viewed on TVs with flash support, or will they go to war with this technology like they have been with Boxee.

    Obviously the local affiliates that pay to air the same content aren’t going to be thrilled with any of this, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  3. Glenn- There’s some big-time negotiation that has to happen on the content side of this biz, both with regard to those who pay for distribution and those who get paid through licensing fees. It could get nasty.

  4. Sounds like a fishing expedition to me. On the topic of hulu, they are going to succeed and it’s a matter of who gets a good deal soon with terms that don’t have to be renewed annually.

  5. The Adobe demo ran at 4-5 mbps off a local hard drive but looked as good as any HD on cable and most satellite channels. Performance was okay but not great on a dual Core broadcom 7405 reference platform.

  6. Beezus, you underestimate the licensing complexities and influence of the local broadcasters. One day some sort of arrangement will be hit (X dollars to local broadcasters, payments to various guilds, new content no earlier than 72 hours after broadcast, etc), but it won’t be soon. We’ll have to see how ZillionTV plays out – Fox and NBC (amongst others) are investors.

  7. Let’s not forget human sacrifices to our alien overlords. Point taken, but you can’t sand bag demand.