After a post yesterday about Adobe's newly announced Media Player, we were intrigued with its possibilities and got a firsthand demo of the technology from Adobe at its booth at NAB. What the Adobe Media Player amounts to is a downloadable desktop application that plays back Flash video files. But what it really is is an RSS reader, giving you TiVo-like capabilities such as a "Season Pass" -like capability to download and view your favorite online programs.
Adobe showed the way Media Player will enable ad-supported programming to be downloaded, and you don't even need to be online to watch it because the ads will be cached. This lets content creators monetize advertisements for downloadable materials, too, approximating the business model of broadcast television where advertisements pay the freight for otherwise-costly programming. That's why Adobe introduced it at NAB.
Sure, there's DRM involved, where you are able to tell the application what sorts of products you're interested in, and then it will show those kinds of advertisements to you. Then the application reports back to the content creator on which ads were viewed. Some viewers may not be willing to do that, but others may think it's a small price to pay to get free content. There's another big piece of news with this announcement, too:
We're glad to see an improvement of the quality of Flash video (see that photo at the top of this article), and the ability to watch Flash video full screen. Don't get Flash video confused with those annoying websites using Flash. Flash video is a clean way to display content, and is the technology behind YouTube and lots of other great looking Flash-based Web video viewing systems.
As far as DRM is concerned, the content creators can choose to allow their programming to be freely distributed or not. Adobe reps say they are only enabling content creators to control and limit access, and that's at the discretion of those who own the copyright.
Content creators could get awfully obnoxious with this technology, though, with tricks such as embedded product placement, where in one week that soft drink can sitting in the background may be a Coke and the following week it might magically turn into a Pepsi, depending on who is paying the bills, which soda you prefer, or both. Advertisers will also have the ability to pop up annoying little clickable "bugs" that are targeted specifically to you. That could get old pretty fast.
That said, it's a pretty sweet looking player, and website purveyors can modify it to look just like the rest of the site. Plus, it simplifies distribution of video, where the only thing video makers need to do is to add their Flash video files to an RSS feed, and then users can use the Adobe Media Player as an RSS aggregator. We're looking forward to the beta release of this software later this year, and Adobe hopes it will dominate the Web landscape as its Flash video protocol has thus far. Whether this tech is used for good or ill is up to the programmers.