Adobe Opens the Pandora’s Box

Manolo Almagro, Weekly Columnist

I have, on numerous occasions – had the dubious honor of being called an Adobe Fanboy, but what’s not to like? Check out these jaw dropping stats (from Adobe’s site) The graph below represents data from a survey concluded in Dec 2008. It shows how Flash is used by over 2 million professionals and is reaching 99.0% of Internet-enabled desktops and devices in mature markets (a mature market- includes the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany)


While Adobe has not officially released a platform for digital signage, the recent debut of its “Flash Platform to the Digital Home” opened the proverbial Pandora’s box for scary big players like Intel, Disney, Broadcom and Comcast- take notice that these companies have already committed to building the bridges that will usher in an era of hyper-engaging, feature rich, immersive campaigns for the “yet to be built”- next generation of digital out-of home networks.

For the DailyDOOH subscribers that don’t speak “geek” -Behold a translation. Adobe’s new flash platform gives consumer electronics manufacturers way to embed the flash player on a chip and bake it into any of their new products. Consider the impending Q3 – Q4 tsunami of internet enabled TVs, set top boxes and blu-ray disc players -not to mention mobile phones.

The big question is -what does it mean to the unwashed masses of the DOOH industry? Well, the answer depends where you live in the great circle of life -within the place based media ecosystem:

As a content provider, a media or ad agency. You most likely -or absolutely love, love, love Adobe’s gift. – Why? – because it delivers the promise of the “make once, play many” philosophy- putting the consumer electronics manufacturers in the best position to crack open the market by providing a free flash playback engine for any consumer device that wants it. This strategy – has the means to turbo-charge the rich media experience as allows flash applications to played OUTSIDE the browser-(queue the choral sound effect here) – yes, brothers and sisters… the holy grail of seamless interactivity is within our grasp.

This Adobe strategy for ultimate digital ubiquity has the potential to obliterate the current landscape of digital out-of home signage solutions- by enabling entirely new types of place based experiences. These new experiences will provide consumers the ability to seamlessly move between various digital experiences – creating a virtual chimera of out-of-home, on-line and mobile interactions.

If you are one of the established digital signage solution providers, the prospect of a free flash player embedded in future display products, could be a boom or a bust. If the player engines will be free, how can you adapt your current platforms to leverage, distribute and control them?  Bearing in mind that the consumer TV market is the fuel for the engine that drives future commercial flat panel product features, its not a far leap to see how the free flash player integrated with internet enabled commercial grade displays will soon be a reality.

What next? – today’s solution providers may find a some fierce competition for DOOH solutions looms close on the horizon. As Adobe continues to evolve its tool sets to further blur the lines between mobile, out-of home, on-line and in-home experiences,  its not long before new DOOH solutions will come from virtually any of the screen manufacturers, or cable/set-top box makers that intends to embed flash within their hardware.

But- as with all predicitions – time will tell. The possiblity exists that Ad Agencies may decide to turn their attention away from DOOH – and seize upon this new opportunity to take their biggest margin product (broadcast advertising) and infuse it with on-line campaigns using this new platform. Or – if innovation prevails – new companies and services will rise from the chaos and provide all new, all inclusive hybrid solutions to manage ALL digital experiences. – Let’s not forget Silverlight. -although it has a long way to go to catch up with Flash – it still has a faint glimmer of promise.

The only thing I can be sure of is this… I expect that DailyDOOH subscribers that are hard core digital signage software solution providers are going to have a field day with this post (as in; they will become defensive -and comment on why flash will never work) but so far, the trending continues to go the way of Adobe. It would seem  its time for the establishment to wake up! embrace our new Adobe masters – or start innovating again – and find a way to integrate the new flash enabled hardware into your very near future product road maps.

4 Responses to “Adobe Opens the Pandora’s Box”

  1. Howard Smith Says:

    Hi Manolo

    I can fully see the Adobe platform being used on a STB for flash video playback as the flash video playback engine can leverage the H264 hardware decode prevalent on all these modern boxes. What will be much more interesting is how to draw rich vector graphics and animations without any ‘real’ processing power (CPU or Graphics), and there is a big difference between pushing lots of pixels on a 1080p screen and a mobile phone screen!!!. Sure they can all put bigger processors in but as these boxes are manufactured to a price and penetration point I cant see it. So maybe the flash platform on these STB’s will be rich video with flash menu overlays (i.e. largely static).
    I to am an Adobe fanboy, but when creative’s can create flash files that max out a 2Ghz Core2Duo then a low end STB will not really suffice (yet !!)

  2. Jason Cremins Says:

    I would like to give a big thumbs-up to Adobe. One of the major issues we have in our sector is the need to achieve greater uptake of Digital Signage and Adobe Open Screen Project will establish ‘standards’ that will enable the mass-market penetration required.

    At present the many hundreds of DS platforms all have their own take on how to get media to screens, with Rich Media distribution platforms such as Adobe Air coming through cross-compatibility of media upload, distribution and playback will become critical. An example of this is MediaRSS, originally created as an extension to RSS by Yahoo to handle images/video and now rapidly becoming the standard for syndicated content and playback in the case of Adobe Media Player (under the Strobe Project).

    If your DS platform accepts MediaRSS content and outputs in MediaRSS then in addition to the end point being a Screen, it can just as easily be any MediaRSS compatible device such as TV, Web Browser, Mobile Phone, Gaming Platform.

    The next generation of Digital Signage Platforms that survive the evolution (or for many legacy DS platforms, revolution) will become Digital Media Platforms. Digital Media Platforms capable of full integration with Media Content Providers and Media Sales Solutions upstream, whilst provide open standards output of content over the Internet to enable cross-device compatibility of media playback.

    In the future Digital Media Platforms will act as ‘Media Logistics’, the DHL of Digital Media sat between content and playback making sure everything works seamlessly over the Internet.

  3. Bruce Says:

    Adobe (& Macromedia before that) has been trying to port Flash for use on cell phones for years with only limited success. While this is due in part to cell phone power/cpu limitations, it is this writers belief that it is also due in part to Macromedia & now Adobe wanting to gain some kind of revenue share from the carrier network providers (ATT, VZW, etc) for flash-enabled application downloads subscribed to by their end-users (a kind of double dip, developer licensing fees + a subscription rev share).

    I think we all agree, Flash is ubiquitous and has a huge developer community WW. Provided Adobe sticks to their bread & butter software licensing business model versus some other type of who knows what business model (rev share, SAAS, who knows) they would be a welcome addition to me should they develop a flash-enabled Digital Signage app. Just a very simple way to design flash templates that end-users could customize would be killer enough, at least for starters…

  4. Fallon Massey Says:

    I think Adobe deserves a LOT of credit for creating a good platform. However, I give them less credit for it’s installed base.

    They were GIVEN prime position in Internet Explorer for years in a very non-competitive way. Smaller companies couldn’t get jack in the browser, but Adobe(then Macromedia) go affirmative actioned right in.

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