Archive for June, 2010

Snippets from Adobe Quarterly Call

Adobe reported its quarterly results yesterday, and as usual offered an open question-and-answer session with financial analysts.

I’d like to thank SeekingAlpha.com once again for transcribing both the presentation and the discussion section. They allow bloggers to copy up to 400 words, and I pulled some snippets out of the Q&A. These are heavily edited to turn transcribed speech into written speech… if in doubt, please go back to the transcript or the audio.

“2010 is clearly off to a great start. Adobe’s long term opportunity has been sometimes overlooked in this recent Flash controversy… When you talk about the explosion of digital content, the movement towards devices, the businesses which are moving online, it’s just a really massive opportunity, and an opportunity where Adobe is uniquely positioned.”

“The number of Flash users is now up to 3.5 million designers and developers, a 59% increase. In terms of the revenue of products that contain Flash, there has been a 22% increase in revenue.”

How does Adobe’s investment in Flash Platform generate a return-on-investment? Authoring tools are the obvious way, and multi-screen authoring is rapidly increasing in demand. Servers are another, whether through consumer video or enterprise application servers. Player downloads offer third-party software, and this helps pay for Player development. Analytics are another emerging area, so that creators can see how well their content suits their audiences’ needs.

“We really have not seen any impact of the HTML and Flash debate on our authoring business. Instead we’re seeing more and more fragmented workflows as people have to author to different standards. The need to deal with all these disparate workflows is actually causing more attention to be paid to the Creative Suite 5 features. We’ve said this multiple times, that ‘Flash *and* HTML’ is really going to be the solution for the web. Both of them have benefits. And Adobe has had a long history of supporting both formats.”

“I’d say one of the reasons Creative Suite 5 has been so strong across the board is authoring for multiple screens. It’s a painpoint now for all customers, and between now and holiday season you’ll see probably another ten tablet style devices that come out with different resolutions. This will increase the demand further. The need for customers to be able to get their content out to multiple devices… we’ve certainly seen an uptick in those requests.”

“With respect to your question on the content servers, the amount of video served or streamed using the Flash format has actually exceeded our expectations from the beginning of the year. The big reason is that more and more video is been streamed over the internet. The fact that some devices don’t support Flash just means that there may be additional workflows. But if you think about sporting events or when you think about television, all of that’s also being streamed on the Internet and practically all of that is in Flash.”

Tip: Keep an eye on OSMF

Summary: If you help people make choices in web technology, then it would likely be profitable to get the new Open Source Media Framework onto your personal radar now. OSMF is an industry-wide collaborative effort to make it easier, faster, cheaper and more reliable to developer advanced video interfaces for desktop and mobile.

How we got here: Real Networks started web video in 1997, before Apple and Microsoft expanded The First Codec Wars from CD-ROM to Web… in 2002 the ubiquitous Macromedia Flash cross-browser extension added video, and although fragmentation remained an issue for awhile, people like Jens Brynildsen clearly saw the trend… by 2005 phenomena like YouTube started showing how useful and popular play-on-demand video could be.

Popularity of web video has exploded since then… demand has gone viral. Meanwhile feature requests have increased too, from download-and-play to progressive streaming to live streaming to adaptive streaming to rights-management to advertising revenue to analytics to DVR functions to multi-feed to social annotations to… the list goes on. Content providers needed to continually reduce their increasing delivery costs, while the complexity of serving the video also increased.

How to reconcile delivery costs and feature costs? One tack has been to move to ordinary HTTP servers, rather than dedicated media servers. But this requires that much of the “smarts” in a dedicated media server be replicated in the client for a cheaper HTTP server. This increases development costs. But the Open Source Media Framework is designed to slash those development costs — tapping into the whole industry for best practices for a clientside presentation layer, making a framework which all stakeholders can expand.

Check out this June 10 post from Kevin Towes… he gives a deeper overview of the feature requirements and the trends. Then read Greg Hamer’s Devnet article on how to approach OSMF. Click on some of the links that interest you. After reading both these essays you’ll have a much clearer view of where video growth is going than will most of the other people who might advise your friends.

I think OSMF will be very useful in the real world. Lots of producers are now figuring how to minimize “The iPad Tax” of multiple deployment paths, and OSMF workflows will naturally integrate with the most efficient solutions. When large numbers of browsers start supporting the VIDEO/H.264 and VIDEO/VP8 approaches, the “HTML5″ UIs will likely integrate or parallel the OSMF methodologies to tap into its broader ecology. Mobile delivery adds multiple complexities, and OSMF efforts are explicitly designed to deal with them. And, at the leading edge, the community approach of OSMF will just make it easier to deliver better features, cheaper. Just as with Jens’ piece back in 2003, the trends are clear if you look at them.

Anyway, that’s my pitch… if you ever advise people about video at all, then spending a few minutes now examining the full release of the Open Source Media Framework will guarantee your video expertise into the future…. ;-)

Happy Birthday, “HTML5″

Five years ago today I first blogged about Ian Hickson’s use of the term: “‘HTML5′ is the name we’ve been using as the catch-all term for our various proposals.”

Odd trivia: this label was invented only three months after Jesse James Garrett coined “AJAX”. The difference in momentum is explained by Ajax using abilities already available in deployed browsers — Internet Explorer was the first to support asynchronous XML requests, and “Ajax” became popular only after Firefox started supporting it too. “HTML5″ is the other way around… marketing occurs on features to be found in current and future versions of minority browsers, and there’s little provision for reaching the masses. “HTML5″ definitely has bigger buzz than “Ajax” here in 2010, though.

JavaScript was added the same time as third-party plugins, in 1995′s Netscape 2. Dreamweaver arrived with “DHTML” in 1998, when browsers could first do sprite animation and handle user events. Flash developers use HTML as part of their own work. Most of the “‘HTML5′ vs Flash” stuff comes from people who don’t use both… sort of like debating whether the knife is better than the fork when slicing and eating birthday cake.

Happy birthday, little marketing label, you’re now five years old. Grow up and do good things.