Cisco Flashes Cross-Platform Play
Fueling a strategy to deliver "any stream to any screen," Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has bolted on Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash streaming capabilities to its content delivery system (CDS), a platform that evolved following Cisco's $92 million acquisition of video server startup Arroyo Video Systems last August. (See Cisco Snatches VOD Vendor Arroyo.)
Cisco, which has been showing off the capability at recent trade shows, including The Cable Show in May, said supporting Adobe Flash Media Server 3 will enable the CDS to deliver Adobe Flash Player-compatible video fare to a range of devices, including PCs, televisions, and mobile phones.
"CDS represents an important milestone in the evolution toward a consistent content delivery architecture for both highly secure and advertising-enabled media across Internet, mobile and traditional platforms," said Comcast Interactive Media (CIM Labs) Executive Vice President Sam Schwartz, in a statement.
The Cisco-Adobe announcement did not detail their involvement with CIM, but that's the division at Comcast behind Internet-delivered, Flash-based video services and applications such as "The Fan" as well as the coming "Fancast" entertainment portal, which is presently available in beta form.
Flash also powers the video apps of popular user-generated, social networking sites such as YouTube Inc. and MySpace .
By integrating Adobe Flash Media Server 3 with the Cisco CDS, "we are expanding the Flash ecosystem and continuing to offer our customers more deployment options," said Jim Guerard, Adobe's vice president of Dynamic Media.
Cisco said the CDS will support Adobe Flash Player-compatible video streaming by the fourth quarter of 2007.
In a press conference, Cisco and Adobe execs said Flash content is seeing explosive growth, infiltrating carrier and enterprise networks alike. That trend has led to increased requests for better performance, scalability, and security, as well as the desire for a common user interface across wired, wireless, and mobile platforms.
"We see the greatest pickup for folks in those segments that are becoming very significant users of Flash and Flash streaming-based content, and looking for us to provide a higher-scale platform," said Paul Bosco, Cisco's vice president of video and broadband initiatives.
Adobe, meanwhile, doesn't think Flash will be limited to cellphone videos of some dude tripping over a dog. A few weeks ago, Adobe released an update to Flash Player 9, code named "Moviestar," that supports H.264 for high-definition video and AAC+ for high-quality audio. Adobe introduced Flash Media Server 3 this week at the IBC show in Amsterdam and expects shipments to begin in the first quarter of 2008.
The companies resisted the temptation to talk much about the prospect of Flash-based Internet video heading to high-definition television screens. Bosco said that idea was "directionally correct," but that the emphasis for now is on PCs and handheld devices, the two venues where Flash content is most in demand.
Still, there's no denying Adobe's Moviestar inches Flash toward the big screen. "Their release supports formats that we now bring to the SA (Scientific Atlanta ) set-tops and other consumer devices heading towards the TV," Bosco said.
More generally, the CDS announcement ties to Cisco's goal of creating a catch-all architecture for video delivery on multiple devices, something Bosco said carriers have been asking for.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News; and Craig Matsumoto, West Cost Editor, Light Reading