Google's On2 Move Will Pressure Adobe To Open Source Flash Player

This is what the Android's desktop looks like -


If you study it very carefully, you'll notice some subtle integration with Google's web search service.

It's a straightforward plan.

1. Bake Google services into Android (and Chrome OS)
2. Make it not just free, but fully open source
3. Become dominant OS in mobile devices
4. Gain more users for Google services

Online video is a problem though - YouTube is Google's own service, and yet you can't use it on a pure Android phone because of the lack of a suitable open source video codec. This will hamper adoption for Android. The new HTC Hero phone includes a Flash Player atop Android to address this issue, but they will have done their own integration, and negotiation with Adobe.

Google's solution is to buy On2 and open source a player with a more advanced codec. YouTube can then publish video without the Flash player, and Android will display it. YouTube won't remove the Flash player any time soon because it offers compatibility for a huge range of desktops, but it relegates it to being the legacy desktop player, rather than the cutting edge mobile one.

All this adds pressure for Adobe to find a way to provide an open source Flash player for distribution with Android. Adobe doesn't have its own mobile platform or devices. Apple has been resisting it for 2 years. Android is its big chance to take Flash mobile.

Posted by Alexander at August 6, 2009 02:50 PM

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My G1 came with a youtube app that works perfectly. The problem does exist with other sites that use flash, but that's true on most mobile phones right now.

Posted by: Paul Roberts at August 6, 2009 06:42 PM

Interesting - I guess that's not an open-source app, but a closed source app on top of the open source OS . . . I think Google's aim here is to get as much as possible into the open-source OS.

Posted by: Alexander at August 6, 2009 07:01 PM

Android phones ship with a YouTube app. Following a YouTube link in the browser utilizes the app to play the video.

Google buying On2 isn't about Android, or only peripherally in any case. It isn't about pushing Flash towards open source, it's about killing them. Google will likely open the VP* codecs when the deal is done, and the primary goal there is surely to provide an option for HTML5 video that the browser vendors might actually be able to agree on.

This is going to make for some strange bedfellows in the long run - can't wait to see MS openly resist HTML5 video in IE, or lamely try to use WMV if the HTML5 spec leaves the codec unspecified. They'll be doing it to keep pimping Silverlight, but it will be much more effective at keeping Flash alive and kicking.

PS: Your commenting system seems to counts a preview as a post, blocking the followup submission. It also isn't doing the right thing with regard to newlines, at least not in the preview.

Posted by: Jaiwobble at August 6, 2009 07:56 PM

Hi, when you say "open source", what precisely do you mean?

(Much of the Adobe codebase is already "open", whether to sourcecode inspection or community contribution. The "completely open Player" stance is difficult to imagine given that Adobe licenses a variety of audio/video encoders/decoders to deploy atop the world's desktops.)

Summary: What, specifically, would you like to change in the future?

tx, jd/adobe

PS: You mention HTC, but you're aware of the larger Google stance too, as well as the work now being done on general smartphone support, right?
ht tp: / /"andy+rubin"+android+adobe
ht tp: / /"flash+10"+mobile+2010

PPS: URLs broken in an effort to bypass the spam filter, which errantly said I was submitting too frequently.

Posted by: John Dowdell at August 6, 2009 08:01 PM

Jaiwobble, I'm assuming Google wants to see an open-source Flash player inside an Android distribution - it gives Android access to all the Flash games, apps and developers. Also many Google services are heavily dependent on Flash - Analytics, Adwords, (not sure about maps). The aim is not to kill Flash.

JD, It's the "completely open Player" scenario I'm thinking of. Assuming Google open sources the On2 codecs, I wonder what kind of open source Flash player Adobe could put together for distribution with Android by either buying or removing the additional codecs. (Sorenson, H.264?)

I'm genuinely excited about FP10 for Android but I wonder if it guarantees its future better by being an integral part of an open-source Android platform rather than being a closed-source optional add-on.

Posted by: Alexander at August 6, 2009 09:19 PM

The open source Flash thing is a non-starter, and is not at all related to this acquisition, and your statements about Android are quite simply ignorant. The "closed source" YouTube client in Android was made and is owned by Google, using h.264. Google completely owns that little world, and it has nothing to do with Flash.

I suspect that On2 has much more to do with Google's desire to not have to pay h.264 royalties. They can build VP9 functionality into all of their clients "royalty free" (given that they own the company), and better still if the claims about VP9 are true, then they can even claim technical superiority of those clients over the competitors.

Flash is coming to smartphones, but the video part is not at all the driving reason.

Posted by: Dennis Forbes at August 6, 2009 09:29 PM