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Flash Coming Soon to a TV Near You

Adobe's Flash format is pervasive across the Internet today, delivering rich media to users' desktops. Flash could soon be just as pervasive on your TV, thanks to a new Adobe initiative to bring Flash to television screens around the world.

Set-top device manufacturers as well as TV vendors themselves can now include Adobe Flash Lite into their system to deliver Flash-based high-definition and rich application content. Adobe expects that the first shipments of TVs and consumer entertainment devices with Flash Lite built in will start shipping later this year.

Extending Flash media delivery capabilities beyond its traditional confines of the computer desktops has been a major focus for Adobe. Most recently, that's culminated in a proliferation of Flash on mobile phones. Anup Murarka, director of partner development and technology strategy for the Platform Business Unit at Adobe, told InternetNews.com that 40 percent of mobile phones shipped last year had Flash. Apple's iPhone does not support Flash, however.

Now with the addition of Flash on TV, Adobe gains access to another screen in the household.

"As you think about the different consumer screens we already interact with, the next biggest category is clearly the television," Murarka said. " We also very keen to bring the Flash developer community to this environment, both to support existing projects that people are working on and also in really giving a new audience availability to our dev community. "

Flash for TV can be used to stream HD video content playback as well as provide an overlay for content and services. Murarka argued that the goal with Flash is not just to make the same content available to people that they can already get from broadcast TV. Rather, the aim is to make content available that is otherwise not accessible via TV, such as videos from YouTube and other user-generated content.

Developing Flash for TV

Murarka explained that the same tools that Flash developer are using to today, including Flash Developer, already support exporting content to Flash Lite. As opposed to a computer desktop or a mobile phone, enabling developers to actually see how their content will look on a TV screen is a little harder to do, however.

He explained that Adobe is looking at how to extend its Device Central testing toolkit to enable developers to test their content on a variety of new TVs and consumer electronics devices.

Developers building TV applications also will be initially limited in another way: They won't be able to use the full capabilities of the latest Flash 10 player, which is available for computer desktops. Murarka explained that FlashLite does not yet include the latest ActionScript 3 scripting language, the latest edition of Adobe's dynamic scripting language for Flash.

However, Murarka said FlashLite is scheduled to get an update to support ActionScript 3 in 2010. But for now, it's limited to the capabilities of earlier versions of Flash Player. As a result, developers that have applications or games that they've authored with Flash Player 10 technologies won't yet be able to run on Adobe's Flash for TVs.

"The version of Flash that is available for devices is a derivative of Flash Player 8," Murarka said. "So if a game developer included features of Flash 9 or 10 from ActionScript, they would not be compatible and would have to be re-authored for devices."