Adobe Launches Open Screen Project

The company's initiative is aimed at creating a rich Web experience across all devices.

Adobe Systems is launching a new project, leading with the Adobe Flash Player and the Adobe Integrated Runtime to push a consistent runtime environment across devices to make the user experience of shifting from desktop to device smoother.

The Open Screen Project, announced May 1 by Adobe, is a broad industry effort to deliver a consistent runtime environment that will remove barriers for developers and designers as they publish applications and content across desktops and devices, including phones, mobile internet devices, and set top boxes, Adobe officials said.

In addition, the Open Screen Project will address potential technology fragmentation by enabling the runtime technology to be updated seamlessly over the air on mobile devices, the company said. The goal of the consistent runtime environment is to deliver optimal performance across a variety of operating systems and devices.

In essence, Adobe is spearheading the Open Screen Project as an effort to promote one Web experience for desktop and device users, and the company has garnered significant industry support along the way.

The project is aimed at driving rich Internet experiences across televisions, personal computers, mobile devices and consumer electronics, Kevin Lynch, Adobe's chief technology officer, said in an interview with eWEEK.

"The situation in the world of devices and PCs is pretty dramatic in that the number of mobile phones and devices connected to the Internet has [grown] such that the most connected devices are not PCs, although most of the content is still aimed at PCs," Lynch said.

Adobe introduced the Open Screen Project with support from handset makers, carriers and content providers, including ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba. Content providers pledging support for the Open Screen Project include BBC, MTV Networks and NBC Universal, who want to reliably deliver rich Web and video experiences live and on-demand across a variety of devices, Lynch said.

"We've been looking at this and we want to provide a great Web browsing experience across devices and PCs and enable content to flow consistently, and that's something one company can't do on its own," Lynch said. "It's like the soul of Adobe to go and do this."

He said Adobe plans to do for the Web-user experience what the company did for documents with PDF and Acrobat and what it did for multimedia and TIAs (rich Internet applications) with Flash.

In addition, to better enable the Open Screen Project to succeed, Adobe will continue to open access to its Flash technology to accelerate the deployment of content and RIAs. This will include removing restrictions on use of the SWF (Shockwave Flash) and FLV/F4V (Flash Video) specifications, publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player, publishing the Adobe Flash Cast protocol and the AMF (Action Message Format) protocol for robust data services, and removing licensing fees to make the next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free.

"We currently charge a royalty for Flash on devices and we're removing the royalty for the Flash Player and AIR; it's already free on the PC," Lynch said.

He said Adobe Flash Player is the world's most pervasive client runtime and that content for Adobe Flash Player reaches more than 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktops and more than a half-billion handsets and mobile devices today. Adobe officials expect more than 1 billion handsets and mobile devices to ship with Adobe Flash technology by 2009. Flash technology is used to deliver vector graphics, text, interactivity and application logic, video and sound over the Internet.

Meanwhile, the digital explosion across multiple screens is raising consumers' expectations for engaging experiences wherever and however they connect with content, Lynch said. Web browsing on mobile devices is becoming commonplace, but delivering a consistent rich Internet experience remains a challenge, he said. To ensure that user expectations are fulfilled, software applications and video must work seamlessly across multiple devices and content must be easily available across those devices, the company said.

"We're making the client technology updateable to keep compatibility across devices," Lynch said. "We want to provide open access to Web content and applications and do it in a consistent and open way."

Adobe's focus on the seamless update over the air of mobile devices sounds like the strategy behind Microsoft's Live Mesh platform, but Lynch said there are significant differences in that the Open Screen Project "is more about the client experience, and from what I can tell, Live Mesh is more of a server play."

Adobe's hardware partners on the Open Screen Project also weighed in on the effort.

Warren East, CEO of ARM, said in a statement that delivering "a highly responsive, uncompromised Web and rich media experience to consumer devices and the digital home is a key focus for ARM and our partners."