This morning Adobe announced Flash Player will be making its way onto a number of home entertainment devices. Including TV’s, Set Top Boxes and Blue Ray Players. While similar anouncments were made earlier in the year, it is the latest announcement that has seen Flash and Adobe thrust into the main stream news, as the story was featured on the BBC front page and covered in-depth. The article explains this deal could:
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.
By embedding the flash player onto chip Adobe and their partners must be solving some of the problems Sean McSharry posted some time ago in regard the challenges on Creating a Flash IPTV System.
On a visit to the IPTV world forum last month at Earls Court both Flash and Adobe were given very little mention. Which I found a little odd. While a large number of vendors were tipping there hat to FLV support, there seemed to be a lack of full Flash based UI’s on display.
Instead most GUI implementations appeared broadly to fall into two camps. First were those using a Microsoft OS implementation, the latest one seems to be Mediaroom (Link requires silverlight). The other choice seemed to use an SVG display layer with some form of webkit or browser based implementation. Regardless, as Serge Jespers mention in his post, most of the interfaces and functionality were a long way away from the slick interfaces and wonderful mashable, connected experiences we have been spoilt by on the web and desktop for so long.
In one conversation I had the problem facing developers was made clear. It will be an issue any mobile developer will know all too well. Limited performance from the device. Even the most recent silicon going into set top boxes or internet enabled television sets is far behind the processing power we are use to on our desktop or laptops these days. For example when using SVG as a display layer on an High Definition Television (HDTV) I was told it may only be possible to re-render a small potion of the screen at a reasonable frame rate, maybe only 1/8th of the screen. Its this limitation that keeps the interfaces simple with very limited animations or transitions.
On television this issue of performance is further compounded by the platform itself. This is not a small screened, only seen for a few minutes, operated by your more technically savvy user, problem that mobile user interface or application development might suffer from. Oh No! This is a 46 inch or larger, always on display, sitting in the corner of the living room, being seen 356 days a year for a couple of hours or more, by any user from 5 years to over 90 years, type of problem. To make things even worse, on a TV the comparisons are not made between “other applications” on the device, as a user might do with an applications on other platforms. No. The comparison is most likely to be made with the main service provided by TV. That would be the full screen video content that the user has been accustomed to recieving and running smoothly at 25/50+ frames a second. Not only that it has worked for the user that way that well for as long as they can remember, well over a two decades.
Lets hope that the flash player talked about in Adobe’s anouncments can really perform on this platform. If it can, it should mean some great performance improvements for any Flash Platform developer. If it can open the door for me to develop the types of experiences Serge discusses as well, were all our modern communication networks can extend and converge into our living room… Well I cant wait!