Web video battle royale: Adobe vs. Microsoft

Web video battle royale: Adobe vs. Microsoft

Summary: Adobe and Microsoft have soft-pedaled their rivalry on the Web, but a series of announcements from the two companies shows where this competition is really going. Destination: Web video.


Adobe and Microsoft have soft-pedaled their rivalry on the Web, but a series of announcements from the two companies shows where this competition is really going.

Destination: Web video. And if you believe that video is going to be the most important cog of the Web the stakes are very high (see Techmeme discussion). First a brief recap: Adobe unveiled its offline media player, which could become a threat to Windows Media Player. Microsoft also unveiled its Silverlight video tool, which looks to usurp Adobe's Flash video player.

To wit: Microsoft showed off its video side and announced Silverlight, which was formerly known as WPF/E (I'll take Silverlight thank you). Silverlight is an alleged Flash video killer.

Ryan Stewart's take:

When you look at the explosion of Flash video and how it has transformed the web, it was easy to see that Microsoft had to get in. Flash video happened almost by accident, but it really energized Adobe and gave it even more street cred with consumers and media companies alike.

Stewart goes on to point out that Flash video does have some weaknesses that Microsoft can exploit.

Microsoft's challenge: Good luck uprooting the Flash player, which has an 84 percent penetration as of March.  

Adobe also took the wraps off of Philo, its media player. Now the player is known as Adobe Media Player, which will have DRM protections. Ryan Stewart sees it as a competitor to Joost. In reality, Adobe's media player, which will work offline, could become a viable threat to the Windows Media Player.

Adobe's challenge: Good luck uprooting the Windows Media Player, which is quite entrenched. 

Call this battle a draw, but it's going to be really interesting as it unfolds.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Microsoft

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  • I prefer QuickTime

    CNN uses Windows Media Player for their video, at its best, it' still seems a bit clunky. QuickTime seems the most dependable and also seems to have better quality video than all the other formats. I notice WMP video quite often, won?t play through a firewall. Go to the Apple site, and check out some movie trailers, then go to CNN and watch some news video off their site, and you?ll see what I mean. Microsoft once again is late to the plate, and as usual, with something that will seem very mediocre compared to the rest of the pack. I don?t think they?ll be able to usurp the competition on this one, too little, too late. Being a Mac user, I don?t want to use something that only works decently on a Windows platform. The advantage to Flash and QuickTime media is their lack of platform bias.
    • Flash may be a competitor to QuickTime.

      There was a time when movie trailers were played by QuickTime only. Then WMP and Real were acknowledged. Now many content sites use Flash (flv).

      Flash may be competing successfully with QuickTime for its niche.
      Anton Philidor
      • Flash is not competing with QT

        QT is the lingua franca format for authoring; anybody involved in video production uses it as the prefered format for rendering, digitizing and other processes; I dont see anybody with heavy investment in gear/software/training abandoning their tools.
        Not for flash, of course. Flash is relevant as a vector based format and as a platform for authoring and delivering content optimized for the web; video capabilities are an add-on to the format (originally vector based), and not very well handled, if you compare it to any decent video editor in the market.
        In other words, to bring a video to flash you need to start with a quicktime file.
        Beside the technical aspects there is also a strategic positioning going on. Adobe and Apple are historical partners; in the darkest times for Apple, Adobe kept commited to the platform. When Apple introduced FinalCut (bought from Macromedia, where the software was slowly dying) both companies distanced. But even then Adobe consistently supported apple at every mayor change (OS kernel, processor). An Apple/Adobe combo can hurt baddly MS. Now if you add Google (and Sun, and IBM, and...) to the mix, + the opensource community, we have there a strong alignment of planets...


    • I know a Windows user who also prefers Quicktime

      He demonstrated the differences (better sound and better
      picture) on a Windows laptop. I've always preferred Quicktime. I
      hated having to download a clunky, ugly piece of software just
      so I could see or hear something.
      • IT depends.

        Flash trailers tend to be better, but if you've ever heard/seen stuff on U2's web site, the the quicktime was inferior for audio only and for video vs wma/wmv (and that surprised me).
        • Encodings...

          The QuickTime format is a sort of a "wrapper" which can store media in a number of different encodings (file formats); some of the encodings produce very small files which stream quickly and have poor quality, while others produce much larger files which may not stream very smoothly over slower connections, but which have incredible video/audio quality. Some of the encodings map very well to photo-style video content, while others are ideal for simple animations (Anime Studio-type cartoons, for example).

          I've never been to the U2 web site (nor do I ever hope to see it), but I suspect they made a poor choice of encoding when setting up their QuickTime files, based on what you indicated here.

          Flash is ideal for simple cartoon-type animations and for user interface type stuff - interactive content is what Flash is particularly well-suited for. It would be a very poor choice for a video clip, such as a movie trailer. That's QuickTime's domain.
    • Quicktime is spawn of Satan

      TO watch a quicktime movie I have to install a complete iTunes setup, add a whole bunch of programs to system startup (iPos sync service??? I don't even own an iPod!), icons in my toolbar and control panel.

      It also hijacks every media format inside my browser (yes I need a new handler for JPEG images!), and most media formats outside the browser (winamp stops working - when I open an mp3 file it launches my browser to try and play it) and it doesn't matter how many times you reset the file associations they just come back again without asking.

      Every three boots you'll have a bunch of new popups about "updates" and/or advertising.

      All this just to watch a poxy movie in my browser? No thanks. Flash already works.
  • Actually Microsoft's Achille's heel

    Flash is cross-platform, Windows Media player is not. Silverlight presumably will not be either. This is likely to hurt takeup considerably.
    • Not 100% True

      There is a version of Windows Media Player for Mac


      Although there will be no future versions of it
      • re: Windows Media Player for Mac

        just use...


        works for me. ;-)

        gnu/linux...giving choice to the neX(11)t generation.
        Arm A. Geddon
      • MS no longer supports Windows Media Player for Mac

        MS no longer offers Windows Media Player (the application) for Mac, they offer Flip4Mac as a plugin to Quicktime player instead. Have a look at the link you posted - the image is of Quicktime player, not WMP.

        I don't mind at all, it essentially adds a bunch of codecs to play AVI and WMP files so I don't need two players any more and it saves MS having to write a separate application for Mac.
        Fred Fredrickson
    • Actually, Silverlight runs on Mac, Firefox, Safari and IE

      Apparently they or others will offer plug-ins for other browsers and OS's. You can run it today on Mac.
      • Cross-platform?????

        What about Linux, BSD, Solaris, HP/UX, IRIX, AIX, and all the other platforms? MS only 'supported' Mac OS so it's not painfully obvious what they're trying to do.
        • How big is the market

          for DRMed Video on those OSes? I'm thinking it's minimal at best.
    • Java is also cross-platform.. (NT)

    • WMP is irrelevant

      since VLC plays WMA and WMV. I guess it matters for DRM stuff, but Macs are a tiny part of th market and linux isn't much better
  • Flash will win

    Microsoft by sticking everything under the sun into Windows has bloated their OS
    way beyond necessity. Also, Microsoft hasn't had much luck going against Acrobat
    and Adobe, like Microsoft, is a 500 lb Gorilla in the software market. Adobe owns the
    graphics market. Since they bought out Macromedia, noone can touch them in their
    • ... or mistakes will defeat it.

      Many people turn off Flash to avoid the looped advertising. So this is a product already rejected by a substantial portion of the market. It's used when needed, then turned off again.
      That's not a good reputation.

      Adobe also has a price structure which shows... confidence in the loyalty of the company's customers. And an interface complexity which can rapidly lose the less interested.
      The insistence Microsoft not include pdf coversion software in Office shows how determined the company is to protect its market. That can be more an annoyance than a successful strategy.

      Adobe, like other Microsoft competitors, can make strategic mistakes that give Microsoft the edge over time. Adobe is not (yet) proving itself immune from this syndrome.
      Anton Philidor
      • qttask

        Flash ads are the devil.However i was really annoyed that i had to install quicktime to watch trailers a while back. It's nice to have for content that needs it. And it's nice to have flash enabled for content that neeeds it... Flash I end up just turning off until I need it.

        Quicktime likes to remind me that it's there with the qttask in the task bar. After disabling it, it will still show it's head once in a while. Seems to re-enable itself every so often.

        If Microsoft could make a player that can be easily adopted and isn't hassel to use it could gain a fallowing.

        Than again if Adobe's Media Player is simple to use and not bulky and easy to distribute then they might have a chance.

        I like flash videos for their size and streamability. Quality is most always lacking for anything but simple cartoon type video. But because rather annoying ads are also using flash it becomes a hassel if you try to disable or limit flash content. It there is a nicely scalable and easy to use format with maybe the least bit of quailty that was video only... that would be my bliss.
  • Your predictions of the future are dubious...

    OS is approaching irrelevant. The concept of a dominate OS is not going to be with us forever. Sea change. It is a good time to be a nerd.