Adobe Systems' Flash video, the format that made Web video a hit, is coming to a version of Flash for mobile phones.
On Monday at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Adobe announced video will be included in Flash Lite 3, the next version of the Flash runtime environment for mobile phones. Licensees should be able to get the new software in the second quarter of this year, and Adobe hopes consumers will see it in action by year's end, said Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices at Adobe.
Adding video to Flash Lite will simplify the process of creating and distributing mobile video, which now forces mobile operators to use a fragmented set of special tools, according to Adobe.
"The same video tools they use for delivering Web content can be used for delivering mobile content as well," Murarka said.
Although relatively few mobile users are watching video on their phones today in most countries, carriers and entertainment companies are starting to bet bigger on the new medium. Last week a division of Time Warner signed a deal with Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson for use of the company's technology to deliver news and cartoons, and U.S. operator Amp'd Mobile signed on Hollywood partners to create original mobile shows. The drive to put short video programs on tiny cell-phone screens follows the exploding popularity of short, relatively low-quality clips on Web sites such as Google Inc.'s YouTube that use Flash video.
With the upcoming version of Flash Lite, carriers and content companies will be able to use the same Flash server for mobile as for Web video, as well as the same streaming protocol and the same encoding tools and processes, Murarka said. Videos probably would have to be resized for small handset screens but would not have to be completely re-encoded, he said. This will make it easier and faster to get shows onto handsets, he said.
Flash Lite videos can be presented in a variety of forms, including streaming video, downloadable clips and screen savers, and within Flash-based applications, according to Adobe.
In addition, because the video capability is part of Flash Lite, it will be easier to integrate it with software for using video, such as channel selectors and play, reverse and fast-forward controls, he added.
More than 200 million phones have been shipped with Flash, Adobe said Monday. That includes both Flash Lite and FlashCast, a client-server platform that lets carriers send content to phones in the background so subscribers can use it even outside the network's coverage area.
About 120 million of those Flash phones shipped in 2006, and that was the first year when a majority of them -- about 70 percent -- were sold outside Japan, Murarka said. Japan's NTT DoCoMo was an early adopter of the technology, delivering a FlashCast news and information service called i-channel, which has more than 8 million subscribers, according to Adobe.