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Adobe: Tru2way Won't Shackle Flash

Jeff Baumgartner
5/27/2009

Flash may never become an official part of the CableLabs tru2way specs, and that's quite all right by at least one executive at Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE), the company behind the technology.

"We're very practical as a company, in that we feel it's much more important to focus on actual distribution versus really waiting for the perfect combination of standards and specifications," says Anup Muraka, director of partner development for Adobe's business platform division. "I don't think [specifications] have to be gates or the only conduits to getting adoption."

CableLabs has not indicated when or if Flash might become a tru2way extension, but there is increasing evidence that some major MSOs like the idea of incorporating Flash in the set-top box, taking advantage of the platform's pool of roughly 2 million developers, by Muraka's count.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Adobe demonstrated how Flash could work in the set-top at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show last month in Las Vegas, though an MSO executive said serious adoption and deployment could be two years away.

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has used Flash in some of its boxes for several years, but industry sources say the MSO is in the process of phasing it out. However, Time Warner Cable is said to still be interested in the potential of Flash, and could consider it as an execution engine in digital set-top boxes later on. (See Can Flash & Tru2way Coexist? , Comcast Offers Glimpse of Flash Strategy , Comcast Offers Glimpse of Flash Strategy , and Adobe Extends Flash.)

Flash adoption has surged in mobile devices and PCs, but less so in the TV sector. Adobe revitalized efforts there about two years ago, after it started to see interest in delivering high-definition video alongside interactivity and fancy graphics.

"The basis of much of what we're doing is a response to what we're hearing from the cable industry and developers, as well as a number of other organizations," Muraka says. "We would welcome CableLabs and the community incorporating Flash as an official part of the specifications. But, as Comcast showed, it's feasible and possible to incorporate [Flash] into the tru2way platform independent of that specification."

Those in favor of a more Java-centric tru2way like to point out that Flash will require more integration and expense, and that it could hobble set-top hardware that's not up to the task.

Predictably, Muraka has answers for those objections. Set-tops are starting to have enough processing power to support Flash and the fancier applications it can render, he says. Moreover, Flash developers targeting mobile devices have become adept at building lighter-weight applications.

Muraka, who claims to have been part of the community that built the original specs for the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP, the middleware element of tru2way) says cable ended up going with a platform that was the "easiest for TV" at the time rather than pursuing one that had third-party developers in mind. "The communities that use these technologies are very different," he says.

To court third-party developers, CableLabs is expected to release by mid-June a tru2way reference implementation, a software developers kit, and some associated test tools. (See Is Tru2way Ready to Grow Up? and A Tru2way App Store? )

But Adobe still likes Flash's chances. Technology choices "will actually come down to who can get it front of consumers," Muraka says. "We think Flash has a better track record than most other technologies."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News




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