Adobe today announced the latest version of its near ubiquitous Web video software, Adobe Flash Player 9, which includes improved image quality through support for the industry standard H.264 codec.
Our sister blog, Read/WriteWeb, reports:
It’s codenamed Moviestar, because it includes H.264 standard video support, which is the same standard deployed in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD high definition video players. In other words, the quality of video has been substantially improved from the previous version of Flash Player 9. Also added to the mix is High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC) audio support and “hardware accelerated, multi-core enhanced full screen video playback”.
Adobe claims that these advancements will extend their leadership position in web video “by enabling the delivery of HD television quality and premium audio content”.
While everyone will welcome the potential for higher quality Flash video, the extra bandwidth needed to deliver true “HD quality” imagery, makes it unsuitable for streaming (for now at least), so don’t expect video sharing sites like YouTube to go HD anytime soon. Having said that, H.264 is a far more efficient codec than the one currently used by Flash, and so is capable of delivering much higher quality video using the same bandwidth. Remember Apple recently persuaded YouTube to start re-encoding its back catalog in H.264 for distribution to the AppleTV and iPhone, for exactly that reason.
All of which brings me to the timing of this update. H.264 support was originally scheduled to be part of a major Flash player 10 update, not an incremental 9.x upgrade. Adobe says it brought its schedule forward due to overwhelming customer demand. Could YouTube be one of those customers who were shouting loudest? Then there is Microsoft’s upcoming Silverlight, the so-called Flash killer, which is based on an implementation of the Microsoft VC-1 video codec and uses Windows Media Video (WMV), and — like H.264 — can offer picture quality all the way up to High Definition.
In conclusion, Read/WriteWeb notes:
As well as the consumer benefits, this also gives online video companies a platform to deliver richer Flash experiences on the desktop, Web and H.264 ready consumer devices. As well as the new Flash Player, H.264 playback will be supported by the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR – a platform to create rich Internet applications to the desktop) and applications developed with Adobe AIR software, including Adobe Media Player in late April.