May 01st 2008 | Jens C Brynildsen
Today, Adobe skips all licensing fees for devices and opens up the SWF and FLV specs for anyone to create devices supporting Flash. According to Dave McAllister of Adobe, the goal is to create a consistent experience across all devices and they're not afraid this will cause player fragmentation.
What a change! In just two years, Adobe have opened up a lot of proprietary technology. First the Tamarin virtual machine, then it was the QVM, the AMF specs, BlazeDS and the Flex Framework. Now Adobe makes it easy to create Flash Players for devices by removing all licensing restrictions and publishing the full SWF and FLV/F4V specs. All use will be free and with no limitations. At a later stage, the entire the device porting layer will be published as well as the FlashCast protocol and specs for creating AIR players. Read more about the Open Screen Project on the official page or in the FAQ. Good commentry on Peter Elst's blog as well.
We spoke to Dave McAllister, director of standards and open source at Adobe, about the changes coming up.
Q: If you look at the current devices overview, there's quite a fragmentation in terms of Player versions?
A: Yeah. We've been focusing on the breadth of devices while also optimizing them. No company could optimize for the universe of devices that are out there, so by making this thing available and accessible, we allow other people to also optimize for these devices
Q: This will change things?
A: It's a challenge. We've actually reorganized engineering to align with this program here at Adobe, so that the engineering teams that were Flash Mobile, Flash Desktop and the group that work on AIR are now one engineering group reporting up to Kevin Lynch who is our CTO.
Q: So what made this change come about inside Adobe?
A: Part of it is a recognition that the world of Open is becoming increasingly important for particularly the developer community and device community. Seventy-some percent of developers worldwide makes use of Open Source every single day. This has been an ongoing model inside of Adobe that openness is important. That the ability to stand totally by yourself doesn't exist any more. As things progress, you will continue to see us open and make available technology for all sorts of interesting things.
Q: Do you see the Flash Player moving in the same direction?
A: The headaches with the Flash Player from Open Source is that a lot of the interesting components are license fees that we pay. The audio codec, the video codec, rendering pieces for text are all things that we pay royalties on so that people who use them, don't pay royalties for them. H.264 for instance is a "cost item".
Q: Yeah. And so is the On2 VP6 codec?
A: If someone wanted to build a 100% compatible version they need to include the same codec, they'd need to license that code from ON2, Sorenson, H.264, ACC and Nellymoser
Q: Aren't Adobe afraid of player compatibility issues any more? If anyone can make their own device player, we'll probably get fragmentation in terms of features supported?
A: While removing the restrictions means that others can create SWF players, Adobe believes the community of developers and providers will help maintain a coherent specification and playback experience. Adobe will continue its focus on providing a consistent, cross-platform experience with Flash Player to the widest reach of the extended Web. While fragmentation may occur, (most likely in support of Codecs), we trust the community to help make sure that any degradation is graceful
Q: Removing the license effectively means that others may create Flash Players for the desktop as well, does it not? How will this affect projects such as Gnash that have been more or less legal?
A: Open source initiatives such as Gnash will be able to review the specification and indeed bring their implementation into alignment with the current version of SWF. Similar to the efforts within the Free Software Foundation with respect to PDF, we believe that having a single expression of SWF for all is a unifying point for all implementations
Dave publishes a blog about Adobe's Open initiatives that are updated somewhat irregularly but worth following. The Open Screen Project has already gathered solid industry backing from Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, ARM, Intel, SonyEricsson and many more. You can find more about this at the Open Screen Project website.