There are a couple of news announcements tonight by Adobe that are worth highlighting. They revolve around the video/media side of the Flash Player, something that Silverlight 1.0 focuses on and which has become ever more important in recent months as the explosion of rich media continues to reverberate through the web.
The first announcement is that the version of Flash Player which supports H.264 content is now released out into the wild. It's been in beta for a while, but you had to actively go to Adobe Labs to get it. Now it will be the version of the Flash Player that people download when they go to the regular download site. Our studies have shown that the "dot" releases usually hit 90% penetration in a year, so within the year most people on the web will be able to view H.264 content in the Flash Player. I think there's a bit of a video standards war brewing with the VC-1 in one corner and H.264 in the other corner. Microsoft has gotten a ton of traction with VC-1 through it's Windows Media implementation. But there are still a lot of H.264 assets out there and a number of major video sites, including YouTube, have started to encode some of their content in H.264. With official Flash Player support that standard could see more widespread adoption. It will be interesting to see how the adoption of this new player release correlate to wider adoption of H.264.
The second announcement is about Flash Media Server 3. Flash Media Server 3 (FMS 3) is going to be the release that supports H.264 streaming (unfortunately the only way to get H.264 content to the player). But in the past Flash Media Server has been too expensive for most companies to swallow. Microsoft has talked a lot about the lower cost of video for Silverlight implementations so this new pricing shows the benefits of competition. I'm thrilled because FMS is a great technology and the third iteration builds on a very solid foundation.
There are now two versions of Flash Media Server. The first is Flash Media Streaming which is tailored for "live and on-demand video streaming". The second is Flash Media Interactive Server which caters to "customized scalable video streaming services, plus multi-way social media applications." What does that mean? The "streaming" version is meant for people that are just looking to deploy some kind of video to customers. Most of the video sites on the web could use the streaming solution. The Interactive server on the other hand is meant for more robust video and those that want some level of DRM on their videos. As I understand it the Flash Media Interactive Server is the one that allows for DRMed content. The new pricing is $995 for an unlimited connection license for Flash Media Streaming Server and $4500 for a Flash Media Interactive Server license. This is a great change from the complicated licensing scheme of FMS 2 which basically started at $4500.
Video on the web continues to get interesting. Microsoft fires, Adobe fires, Microsoft fires back and Adobe fires back again. Competition is dropping prices, increasing quality and making everyone's internet a better place. This is a great move by Adobe and as an employee, I'm exited by what I hope will be an influx of people deploying FMS servers.
Great podcast by David Berlind. I think he knows more about FMS 3 than I do. I didn't get a briefing on it so I had to scramble to find internal resources.