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Adobe has secured a deal to put its Flash software into many of the chips that go inside TVs and set-top boxes. It will enable developers and content providers to create applications to deliver web-based content such as news, weather and share prices to TV screens. Flash will be included on most chips -those made by Broadcom, Intel, NXP and STMicroelectronics - but the deal does not cover TVs made by Sony and Samsung. The first applications using Flash are expected to hit TV sets early in 2010.
Sony and Samsung already have a number of connected TVs on the market, but they are using Yahoo's rich media platform of widgets instead of Flash. More than 420 million TVs, set-top boxes, and media players are expected to ship globally in the next three years and increasingly they are capable of being connected to the net. Adobe hopes it can get Flash inside many of those devices to create a new generation of connected entertainment services, including streaming video in high definition, and applications that can run in real time alongside video broadcasts, such as interactive news tickers, sport scores, quizzes and the weather.
It could also mean TVs being used for many of the tasks now given over to a computer or laptop, such as using a search engine, online maps, and consuming all manner of digital content.
Adobe has signed up video delivery service Netflix, Disney and the New York Times to make the first batch of applications. The appeal for content makers and developers is the emergence of a single standard for rich media, which will let them create applications that run on many devices. "Change is coming to TV and we will see more and more content get used and taken to TV," said Anup Murarka, director of technology strategy for Flash.
Flash is installed on about 98% of PCs and almost 80% of all online video is delivered using Flash, according to Adobe. It powers services such as YouTube, the BBC iPlayer and a new generation of video games inside the browser, such as Quake Live. Microsoft has been pushing its own rival platform Silverlight, but it has had limited traction with developers and hardware manufacturers. The company says its second version of Silverlight has been installed on 300 million machines since it became available six months ago.
But analysts think Silverlight is unlikely to challenge Flash across PCs, mobiles and TV screens in the near future. Microsoft does have the Xbox 360 in the hands of at least 28 million gamers and the machine could be used to drive take-up of Silverlight in the home. It also has a few deals with the makers of set-top boxes to power the software that runs TV guides and on-demand services over the internet and this too could be a way to spread Silverlight usage.
Flash Platform Business Unit general manager and vice president David Wadhwani said he still hoped to see Flash on the Xbox 360, as it is already running on the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. "I don't think it is beyond the realm of reason that we will see Flash on the Xbox. It would add clear value to their platform. But the decision is still their's to make."
Adobe is aiming to become the global standard for all rich media in the "three screen" world - PC, TV, and mobile. Up to 40% of all mobile devices shipped in 2008 are expected to carry Flash Lite. However, the big omission remains Apple's iPhone. "We continue to work with Apple to bring Flash to the iPhone," said Mr Wadhwani.