Adobe releases Media Player beta, boosts SaaS

Companies line up to offer content, but WMV, MOV files not supported

Adobe Systems will boost its strategy of helping developers and users create desktop and Web applications that share a similar user experience at its Adobe MAX user conference in Chicago this week.

Adobe plans to announce Monday the acquisition of Virtual Ubiquity, the maker of a Web-based, multi-user word processor called Buzzword.

Adobe also will spin out the beta of a new service called Share that allows users to share and work on documents together online, as well as publish them to wikis or Web pages, said Erik Larson, director of product management for Adobe.

The multimedia software maker will also make the first beta of its upcoming Adobe Media Player available for public download at its Adobe Labs site, while announcing partnerships with a slew of content developers it hopes will drive demand for the free desktop product.

The final version of Adobe Media Player, originally scheduled for release by March of 2008, is now scheduled to ship sometime before July of that year, according to Jen Taylor, group product manager for Flash at Adobe.

The Media Player can play files in the Flash Video (FLV) format used by a fast-growing number of Web sites including YouTube. Those videos can be streamed to the player or saved on a computer for later offline viewing. It takes up less than 1M byte, though users must also download the Adobe Integrated Runtime beta plug-in, which is a 9M byte file for Windows, for it to run.

Companies that will offer content for Adobe Media Player include CBS, PBS, Yahoo, Blip.TV, Fora TV, Meredith, Motionbox, MyToons and STIMTV.

Taylor expects most of the partners to release content supported via advertising, such as "pre-roll" and "post-roll" ads permanently embedded in videos themselves, or via banner ads on the player itself.

"We see a transition where consumers want more content that is free," she said, adding that digital rights management (DRM) technology in the Flash format will prevent users from removing the ads, even from downloaded videos.

The Media Player, which will be available for Windows and Mac OS X platforms, can also be set to receive RSS feeds and download videos according to user preferences for later offline viewing, said Deeje Cooley, an Adobe project manager.

While Adobe has the Flash Player for video playback through Web browsers, the Adobe Media Player fills a hole in Adobe's rich Internet application (RIA) strategy, said Melissa Webster, an analyst with research firm, IDC.

Microsoft, which already had Windows Media Player for the desktop, in September unveiled Silverlight, a Web media player that promises high-definition video playback.

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