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Adobe Releases Flash Player 10.3 Beta
The latest Flash Player beta, released only a month after the full version of Flash Player 10.2, offers media measurement, local storage/privacy integration, and acoustic echo cancellation for video chat applications

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in mid-February, Adobe announced the desktop version of Flash Player 10.2 with its Stage video feature. Less than a month later, the company has released the beta of Flash Player 10.3 for desktop browser viewing of Flash content.

"While this is a beta release of Flash Player 10.3 for desktop operating systems only," the company noted on Adobe Labs, "we are planning to release Flash Player 10.3 for mobile and the next version of AIR and AIR SDK for desktop and mobile soon."

The same was said of Flash Player 10.2 around the time of its official desktop release, which begs the question of whether Adobe will move directly to 10.3 for mobile instead of 10.2.

If so, the features users can expect to see on Linux, Macintosh, and Windows machines include media measurement, acoustic echo cancellation, and localized storage.

The middle feature-acoustic echo cancellation-is key for online video and audio chat, as echo cancellation continues to be a problem with many video IM solutions where the user chooses not to wear headphones. This also allows Adobe to delve into conference call scenarios, be they audio or video, as echo cancellation is key to allowing multi-party calls.

The other two features-media measurement and localized storage-are important to online video, not only in terms of media delivery confirmation but also for local playback or repositories of large data sets.

The ongoing effort to find ways to place more than just simple "cookie" content at the web user's disposal has spawned a number of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), HTML 5 and W3C proposals. From IndexedDB to WebDB to a variety of other options, the idea is to store up to 5 MB of local data per domain (eg, www.streamingmedia.com).

While each of these has its own benefits or drawbacks, the idea is to keep content most used by a domain visitor close at hand, including images, small data sets, or even user preferences.

Adobe's release notes for Flash Player 10.3 beta indicate that the major intent of this integration of local storage with browser "cache clearing" policies are just that-a way to clear out persistent storage in the browser's Flash Player plug-in.

Yet there may be a beneficial side effect to this integration between browser privacy issues and localized storage. To handle large data sets, or even video files, the 5 MB size being explored by IETF and others isn't practical, so one suspects Adobe is going to offer localized storage at much larger MB sizes.

This move to localized storage, if applied to mobile devices, many of which have gigabytes of storage onboard or on microSD chips, could also solve some of the "download-and-go" issues that we touched on during a recent Irdeto article.

To that end, consider that Adobe already has persistent bit-level encryption of content, meaning that a combination of Flash Player 10.3, Adobe Access (the company's digital rights management server) and a traditional HTTP server could yield a simplified purchase or rental model for companies looking to compete against the iTunes Store.

On the measurement side, Adobe is leveraging its SiteCatalyst service and analytics offering to better integrate measurement analytics.

The main goal here is video distribution reporting.

"With Flash Player 10.3 and Adobe SiteCatalyst, developers can implement video analytics with as little as two lines of code," the company states in the release notes on Adobe Labs. "Analytics solutions can use a new set of open APIs to easily implement consistent video analytics irrespective of implementation or delivery protocol. Media Measurement for Flash allows companies to get real-time, aggregated reporting of how their video content is distributed, what the audience reach is, and how much video is played."

One also hopes, for the consumer's sake, that the media measurement will allow the viewer to track poor quality of delivery or quality of experience, and easily report playback issues back to the content companies to whom they are paying service fees to view premium content.