Flash Media Server Roadmap – What’s Next?

On September 10, 2010, join Adobe’s Kevin Towes (sr product mgr) and Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media for a Q&A session about the future roadmap of Flash Media Server. The web seminar starts at 11:00 a.m. PT (2:00 p.m. ET), and all attendees can enter to win a copy of Creative Suite 5 Production Premium. Register Here.


DECE shifts to UltraViolet

Last week, an industry consortium in which Adobe is a founder made some significant announcements. I wanted to help readers of this blog parse the information that was shared and also provide the Adobe/Flash/Flash Access perspective.

The group is known as DECE or Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, and I’ve written about it before. As of this week, we’ve announced a much more user-friendly brand, UltraViolet. From a purely personal perspective, I have to say that this brand is growing on me — the geek in me likes the implied “beyond blue” (read Blu-Ray). There’s even a website, www.uvvu.com and an associated logo.

You may be asking yourself: So… what does this really mean to me? I think the biggest winner here is the consumer. The model behind UltraViolet, and its main reason for existence, is to create a more seamless experience for purchasing/enjoying premium digital content. In the UVVU universe, a user can buy devices from different retailers and have it play on different devices.

This seems like a pretty obvious thing, but today’s electronic content distribution ecosystem based on silos where a device is “captive” to a given content service does not reflect this. Imagine if you needed a stack of different DVD/BluRay players for content from different studios that you buy from different retailers. That would be crazy, right? Well, that’s the status quo today for electronic content distribution, which UltraViolet hopes to overcome.

What’s in it for the close to 60 member companies from different industries participating in DECE/UVVU? Our shared vision is to create a much bigger pie for electronic content distribution (which today only represents a small percentage of all film/video content sold) by removing some of these artificial barriers. By creating the basic infrastructure, UltraViolet also creates opportunities for innovation in business models by everyone who wants to participate. (You don’t need to be a DECE member in order to offer UltraViolet products or services.)

Is this a done deal? My opinion is that it is still very early days for electronic content distribution in general, and UltraViolet in particular. I’m convinced that in the next several years we will see significant innovation in the content distribution space. In times of significant churn in business models, key players, technologies and consumer expectations, such as the one we live in right now, it is hard to predict what will become the new normal. I believe in the vision of UVVU, now we need to see some actual market adoption and see how well everyone executes to deliver on the vision.

From Adobe’s perspective, we see DECE/UltraViolet as highly complementary to our efforts to help drive rich user experiences around content. For instance, the Open Screen Project is an Adobe-led initiative with close to 80 members (many of them also participating in DECE) working together to help establish a consistent execution runtime across a wide range of devices.

More specifically, DECE’s adoption of Flash Access as an approved content protection solution means that UltraViolet content will be able to flow to Flash-enabled PCs and other devices. Flash Access 2.0 shipped in May of this year, and is supported in Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0, which shipped in June. Conversely, the ability for people to create interactive experiences around UltraViolet content using the #1 platform for video on the Web means that DECE gets very broad reach right from the start. Everyone wins, especially consumers who will soon be able to purchase premium video without having to worry about which device it will play on. Well, mostly, as some device manufacturers may have their own reasons to not play in this ecosystem.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems

DECE shifts to UltraViolet

Earlier this week, an industry consortium in which Adobe is a founder made some significant announcements. I wanted to help readers of this blog parse the information that was shared and also provide the Adobe/Flash/Flash Access perspective.

The group is known as DECE or Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, and I’ve written about it before. As of this week, we’ve announced a much more user-friendly brand, UltraViolet. From a purely personal perspective, I have to say that this brand is growing on me — the geek in me likes the implied “beyond blue” (read Blu-Ray). There’s even a website, www.uvvu.com and an associated logo.

You may be asking yourself: So… what does this really mean to me? I think the biggest winner here is the consumer. The model behind UltraViolet, and its main reason for existence, is to create a more seamless experience for purchasing/enjoying premium digital content. In the UVVU universe, a user can buy devices from different retailers and have it play on different devices.

This seems like a pretty obvious thing, but today’s electronic content distribution ecosystem based on silos where a device is “captive” to a given content service does not reflect this. Imagine if you needed a stack of different DVD/BluRay players for content from different studios that you buy from different retailers. That would be crazy, right? Well, that’s the status quo today for electronic content distribution, which UltraViolet hopes to overcome.

What’s in it for the close to 60 member companies from different industries participating in DECE/UVVU? Our shared vision is to create a much bigger pie for electronic content distribution (which today only represents a small percentage of all film/video content sold) by removing some of these artificial barriers. By creating the basic infrastructure, UltraViolet also creates opportunities for innovation in business models by everyone who wants to participate. (You don’t need to be a DECE member in order to offer UltraViolet products or services.)

Is this a done deal? My opinion is that it is still very early days for electronic content distribution in general, and UltraViolet in particular. I’m convinced that in the next several years we will see significant innovation in the content distribution space. In times of significant churn in business models, key players, technologies and consumer expectations, such as the one we live in right now, it is hard to predict what will become the new normal. I believe in the vision of UVVU, now we need to see some actual market adoption and see how well everyone executes to deliver on the vision.

From Adobe’s perspective, we see DECE/UltraViolet as highly complementary to our efforts to help drive rich user experiences around content. For instance, the Open Screen Project is an Adobe-led initiative with close to 80 members (many of them also participating in DECE) working together to help establish a consistent execution runtime across a wide range of devices.

More specifically, DECE’s adoption of Flash Access as an approved content protection solution means that UltraViolet content will be able to flow to Flash-enabled PCs and other devices. Flash Access 2.0 shipped in May of this year, and is supported in Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0, which shipped in June. Conversely, the ability for people to create interactive experiences around UltraViolet content using the #1 platform for video on the Web means that DECE gets very broad reach right from the start. Everyone wins, especially consumers who will soon be able to purchase premium video without having to worry about which device it will play on. Well, mostly, as some device manufacturers may have their own reasons to not play in this ecosystem.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems

Flash Player 10.1 with Flash Access support is live

Today, Wednesday June 10th, 2010, marks the general availability of the final release of Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0.

In addition to providing a number of performance and user experience enhancements, these client runtimes were the last remaining pieces in the Flash Access 2.0 technology stack. As reported here, the back-end components shipped a month ago on May 10th so adopters could start developing content protection solutions based on Flash Access, using the public beta of Flash Player.

With the general availability of FP 10.1 with support for Flash Access, consumers have access to technology that will allow them to watch more premium content online. In addition, a number of other distribution and monetization technologies from Adobe, such as HTTP Dynamic Streaming rely on this Flash Player/AIR release. Other complementary offerings, such as the Open Source Media Framework, have also shipped recently.

Together, all these technologies will work together to enable new opportunities for monetization and highly interactive experiences while providing robust content protection. This represents the result of collaboration across several teams at Adobe who worked hard to bring this technology to market and advance the state of the art in video distribution.

It will be interesting to see how quickly this version of Flash Player gets adopted. With every Flash Player release, the adoption cycle keeps getting shorter. For instance, when Flash Player 10 was released, it had roughly 50% penetration within two months, and had passed 85% penetration in about 8 months. That’s penetration in all Internet-connected PCs, Macs and Linux boxes. How’s that for reach and consistency? If Flash Player 10.1 achieves that kind of penetration in less than 1 year, I believe it will be the most widespread DRM technology ever.

You can read details about other enhancements in FP10.1 on the Flash Player blog.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems
twitter: @florianatadobe

Reshaping video distribution … again

Since we launched Flash Access 2.0 at Streaming Media East on May 10th, things have been extremely hectic. During the weekend I was able to catch up on my blogging and wanted to provide a quick update for those of you following this space.

I’ve been spending some time on the road, and will continue through the month of June, helping people understand how Flash Access can help them with content monetization. This included a week in Hollywood meeting with the major studios and some online service providers; we walked away with a strong sense of support for the technology being used for premium content. Requests for information continue to pour in from around the world. Frankly, the level of interest in Flash Access has exceeded our expectations.

But it isn’t just about Flash Access. Adobe is, once again, changing the content distribution landscape with a number of technologies that are becoming available this month. Last week we put the finishing touches on HTTP Dynamic Streaming, Adobe’s technology to enable streaming experiences (fast start, trick play, network DVR and multi-bitrate support) using standard open source HTTP servers for both live and video-on-demand services. This technology, which will be supported by the major Content Distribution Networks, enables massive scalability by leveraging the existing installed base of HTTP servers.

We also released version 1.0 of the Open Source Media Framework. By creating a standard framework for development of video-rich applications on the Flash Platform, we are making it easier for content providers to monetize content while reducing the development time. Perhaps more importantly, OSMF enables easy integration of plug-ins from the ecosystem of partners offering everything from ad placement, measurement, optimization, etc.

And then of course there are Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0, both in final stages of beta. These new versions of our runtime are taking Flash Player to a whole new level of content protection, with built in support for Flash Access on PCs/Macs. In addition, there’s a big push to bring the power of Flash to other devices, including smartphones, tablets and TVs.

So how does all this come together and what does it mean to you? Flash Access 2.0, Flash Player 10.1, AIR 2.0, HTTP Dynamic Streaming and OSMF 1.0 can be combined to create a rich and secure experience, with low cost and high revenue potential. Who would say No to that?

One question I keep getting is whether Adobe is discontinuing RTMP/RTMPE. That’s not the case. For a lot of people, Flash Media Server, SWF verification, RTMP (Real Time Media Protocol) and its secure counterpart RTMPE will continue to be the best solution, eg to create interactive experiences with data flowing in both directions.

A concern I’ve heard from some people is that Flash Access is “too heavy” when all you need is some sort of “lightweight protection”. I think this is at least in part a perception issue based on people’s experience with traditional DRM systems. It is also important to consider that in order to enable access to ever more desirable content (eg higher resolution, earlier release windows), content owners expect a higher level of robustness.

One of the reasons for the widespread adoption of RTMPE to protect premium streaming content has been its simplicity, scalability and user experience. We have taken steps to make sure that remains the case when using Flash Access, whether it’s used for streaming of live content with HTTP dynamic streaming, for VOD or for electronic sell-through models requiring download with local playback. But that’s the topic for another blog post some other time.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Flash Access 2.0 ships – come and get it!

Today at Streaming Media East in New York City we announced the commercial availability of Adobe Flash Access 2.0. Flash Access is a content protection and monetization solution that is part of the Adobe Flash Platform and can be used for streaming or download of protected content to a browser or application. The client runtimes, Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 will be available shortly, with support for Flash Access on Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

For the Flash Access team, this represents the culmination of many months of hard work to create the next gen content protection solution. We have received very positive feedback from customers and partners and look forward to seeing adoption by the ecosystem.

Flash Access can be used on its own, e.g. to protect content delivered over progressive download, or in combination with other Adobe video distribution technologies such as Flash Media Server or HTTP Dynamic Streaming that enable the best possible end user experience.

Ultimately, the purpose of content protection is to enable content providers to strike the right balance between access and control. By providing flexible mechanisms to support business models such as subscription or rental, Flash Access creates new opportunities for media companies to realize new sources of revenue and for consumers to gain access to compelling video content that otherwise would not be available online.

In the enterprise space, where video content is increasingly important for use cases ranging from company meetings to training, Flash Access can help secure these video assets and preserve confidentiality were required.

To find out more about Flash Access, please visit our product page at http://www.adobe.com/go/flashaccess.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems

Content protection with Flash Access for live video streaming

A question I get asked a lot is whether Flash Access will support live streaming. The short answer is Yes.

The slightly longer answer is that Adobe’s HTTP Dynamic Streaming solution, which combines the best of Flash Media dynamic streaming technologies with the vast installed base of HTTP servers, will support both VOD and Live audio/video streaming, and relies on Flash Access for protection. All of this is coming together soon with the upcoming release of Flash Player 10.1.

So how does this work? For a more complete description you can read an earlier post, but here I wanted to provide a simplified description. The image below may also help.

3747_Dynamic_Streaming_Diagram_small.jpg

Imagine you’re running the output of a camera that is capturing a live event through an encoder; the output of that encoder will be a stream that can be piped through Adobe’s live packager for HTTP Dynamic Streaming. If you are using content protection, this packager will fragment and encrypt the content the content on the fly, resulting in MP4 fragments with a protected payload.

Now the fragments can be propagated to a distributed HTTP cache and down to the client without having to worry about protecting the access to the fragments, since each one is persistently protected. On the playback side, the client pulls down the fragments, obtains a content license from the corresponding license server, and then stitches together the fragments, while decrypting the content securely in memory on the fly.

For these applications, we have created a high performance, horizontally scalable license server that can deployed in a distributed environment to provide the best support for lots of concurrent users. In combination with other techniques such as secure client-side license caching, this can result in a highly scalable solution for live streaming.

Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Irdeto announces support for Flash Access

Things have been very busy here at NAB. Today Irdeto announced support for Flash Access as a hosted offering, allowing companies looking to monetize online video content to outsource most of the operations required for content protection.

This will result, amongst other benefits, in a faster time to market and more effective content monetization. By relying on a trusted partner with secure, worldwide operations, content providers can focus on creating a great user experience.

Adobe and Irdeto are demonstrating Flash Access at our booths in NAB — if you are attending, come check it out and ask questions.

Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Flash Access 2.0 Shipping in May + Adobe Sponsoring DRM Conference

It’s been a long road, but we are in the final stretch to ship our next-gen content protection product, Adobe Flash Access 2.0, next month. We are seeing a lot of interest in the product from partners and customers waiting for Flash Access to fill a need for stronger content protection in Flash Player and enable new monetization strategies.

We have been in private beta for some time now and have received great feedback from partners who have helped us improve the product. We look forward to continue working with them as they deploy Flash Access, whether internally for their own use or as the technology for enhanced content distribution and monetization services.

Some of you may be familiar with the work we are doing around HTTP Dynamic Streaming (aka “Project Zeri”). What you may not know is that this technology is designed to work in conjunction with Flash Access to enable protected HTTP streaming for both Live and Video-on-Demand online video distribution.

You’ll be hearing more about Flash Access and HTTP Dynamic Streaming in the weeks and months to come. I’ll be at NAB next week, with presentations at the Adobe booth scheduled for Monday and Wednesday at 9:30 AM. Then it’s off to Streaming Media East in NYC next month.

I’ll be back in New York in June for the Copyright and Technology Conference, which Adobe is sponsoring. I’ll be moderating a panel on Best Practices for Monetizing Premium Video Content, where we are planning on having some great speakers; more on this later. There are other panels that also promise to be very interesting.

If you are planning on attending any of these events, feel free to stop by to say hi.

Regards,
Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Flash Media Live Encoder 3.1 FOR MAC now available!

Today I’m happy to announce the release Flash Media Live Encoder 3.1 for the Mac, the most anticipated live encoder release ever!

You can download it today for Free at: http://www.adobe.com/go/fmle/

FMLE 3.1 will allow you to capture and create great live content from your MAC and from your PC. We’ve added support for recording up to 3 separate encodes to disk and auto adjusting the bitrate to help ensure high quality of service even if your network conditions change.

FMLE 3.1 for Mac will work with the built-in MAC iSight as well as devices such as Firewire cameras and video capture cards to support a broad range of use cases and workflows. Like the Windows version, the Mac version of FMLE 3.1 is FREE.