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Today Adobe, the San Jose software maker, will announce that it is integrating a standard format for high definition video into the newest version of its immensely popular Flash video player. Flash players currently sit on 98 percent of all desktop computers and hundreds of millions of portable and handheld devices. Sites like YouTube, ABC.com and NBC.com favor Flash over competing players like Apple’s QuickTime and Microsoft’s Windows Media, since Flash is relatively easy to develop for and videos play directly in the browser.
The high-def standard that Adobe is embracing is called H.264. It is the same video format used in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD video players and the latest cable and satellite set-top boxes. Adobe will integrate support for H.264, and for the high-performance AAC audio standard, into the newest version of Flash, available for download today. But the changes will be gradually visible over the next year, as Flash video producers begin to encode their video in the higher quality format.
Flash Web Video in High Definition [bits.blogs.nytimes.com]
What will be interesting is if web browsers become increasingly integrated with television sets, not just through media centres but also games consoles and even portable devices such as phones and PDAs with television-out ability. Once you can pipe high definition video straight onto televisions straight from the web, who needs physical discs any more?
The problem with Flash video is that up to now it has been based on proprietary standards. Most popular video standard on the web today, but locked-up in a proprietary standard, with limited third-party support.
The only free open-source third-party software available for the existing (FLV) format works with only an older version of the codec. This will open things up considerably, allowing webmasters to use a large variety of third-party tools for most every aspect of video preparation and serving.
One problem yet - the updated Flash will not accept MPEG4 video streams from a non-Adobe streaming server. You can still serve videos using "progressive download" from your web server, but it won't stream as smoothly, won't have the ability to skip forward (unless already downloaded), etc.
So, while Adobe has opened things up, they are still trying to lock users into their expensive media servers.