NAB 2007: Major Announcements from Microsoft and Adobe Shake Up the World of Online Video

Major announcements this morning at NAB 2007 from both Adobe and Microsoft find each one vying the lead in the ever-more-lucrative online video market. Adobe announced its Adobe Media Player, a standalone video player that gives Flash Video DRM for the first time, while Microsoft introduced Silverlight, a cross-platform, cross-browser media and application delivery plug-in.

In the process, each company tried to shore up its real and perceived weaknesses. The lack of DRM has long been considered Flash Video's Achilles heel, and the fact that Flash was tethered to the browser meant that it couldn't compete in the download and mobile markets. As for Microsoft, the lack of support for Windows Media Player on the Macintosh-despite Redmond's support for Telestream's Flip4Mac-has hurt its reputation among the creative community and, to a lesser extent, consumers.

But both of these announcements do more than just fill in the holes in each company's offerings. Adobe and Microsoft are both aggressively trying to capture more mind- and marketshare, and both the Adobe Media Player and Silverlight-as significant as they are on their own-are outgrowths of even more significant shift's in each company's online media strategy.

Which announcement will have a bigger effect on the online video industry is open to debate and, of course, it will be a long time before the dust settles and we know the winner in the competition to rule the online video world. In the meantime, we'll look at each one in alphabetical order.

Despite the explosion in Flash Video's popularity over the last two years, thanks mainly to YouTube and other user-generated content sites, its limitations had been coming under more and more scrutiny. The Adobe Media Player-which is set for beta release this summer-answers Flash's critics as well as extends Adobe's reach in the content delivery chain.

Adobe Media Player
Adobe Media Player"We've had the creation and distribution components," says Mark Randall, chief strategist in Adobe's Dynamic Media Organization. "Now, we've got the consumption and playback component." Randall emphasizes that Adobe Media Player is a lightweight download that offers what he calls three critical features: higher-quality Flash Video, anonymous metrics for content publishers and advertisers, and a social media component including tagging and consumer ratings.

The Consumer Experience
From a consumer standpoint, the Adobe Media Player is intuitive and straightforward. Viewers can view videos within the player or at full-screen, they can create playlists of their favorite shows, and they can subscribe to RSS feeds of their favorite content. The player is free to viewers and will accept any RSS-enabled content, free of charge to the publisher. (It should be noted that any content displayed in the screenshot below is for demonstration purposes only; Adobe has not announced any partnerships with content publishers yet.)

"Consumers won't see Adobe's brand at all," says Craig Barberich, group product manager in Adobe's Dynamic Media Organization. "Our philosophy is to let media publishers take over the experience and customize it to their liking. Our research and vision says that viewers want almost an email experience, where they subscribe to content and it all comes into the player."

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