Adobe has upgraded its Flash player to handle high-definition video. San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe systems said its Flash Player 9 software includes support for H.264, the advanced video compression codec in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD hi-def DVD players. A beta version of the update is available online. The final release is expected in the fall.
Concurrently, On2 Technologies of Tarrytown, N.Y., said its Flix encoding technology would support content for the new Flash format, in addition to its own VP6, which is used in previous versions of Flash.
The Flash HD upgrade extends hi-def streaming capability to the masses, even though the nature of high-definition content and distribution is still tenuously comprehended. There are degrees of HD quality, with MPEG-2, unretransmitted over-the-air content at the top, and MPEG-4 over a 200 kbps copper or coax conduit on the low side. One report from BetaNews indicates the Flash upgrade will handle 1080p, a higher resolution than most of the native HD displays and many of the camcorders in use today.
HD Flash capability is nonetheless another signal to dedicated multimedia distributors--broadcast, cable, satellite and telcoTV providers--that streaming can no longer be dismissed as low-res, jerky video in a tiny box. Disney executive Anne Sweeney, chief of that company's ABC Television Group, said as much to network affiliates two years ago, and ABC is now beta testing an online HD player from Move Networks in American Fork, Utah. It's not the same as watching "Grey's Anatomy" on a Panasonic plasma across the street from the WABC-DT transmitter, but it looks a whole lot better than the majority of online video.
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