Google and Adobe

Google needs Adobe Flash because, as anyone who has used YouTube knows, this software is currently the prevalent method for playing and authoring Internet video – there was a multi-million agreement signed between the 2 companies in 2006. The question whether Google will acquire Adobe was asked almost 2 years back for different reasons.

Early August this year, Google announced they would acquire On2 Technologies for $106.5M. While the deal is not expected to close until sometime in the fourth quarter, many wrote about this were already declaring that Google will disrupt the online video industry by speculating that Google will open source On2’s VP8 technology. BTW, On2 markets video compression technologies that power high-quality video in both desktop and mobile applications and devices and also holds a number of interesting patents

There is also speculation that this acquisition will force Adobe to open-source its Flash Player.

Now, Google released Chrome OS earlier this month as well as Android 2.0 SDK.

It is a well-known fact that Google goes behind all the monopolies of the software world and create their own products – remember Google Docs against Microsoft, Android against Apple iPhone. In the world of video, Adobe has a huge monopoly – all desktops come mostly pre-installed with Flash Player.

What does all this mean? Some questions do arise from the recent events.

  • What will Google do with their On2 acquisition? There has been no news about it for the last 3 months. Google is known for coming up with strategies that will ensure their acquisitions are positioned adequately in their technology roadmap.
  • This acquisition is nothing to do with their ads per se – unlike their recent acquisitions of Teracent or Admob
  • In Google’s Chrome Operating System, will they still go for a Flash Player that is not open-source?
  • What are the odds that Google will use the codec technology of On2 to come up with an open-source video player for Chrome?
  • Like someone asked earlier, will Adobe open-source Flash Player?
  • How can Google avoid Flash Player on their Chrome OS?
  • Flash Player is not supported on iPhone – why should Google support it on Android, even if it is free?

Read between the lines and I am sure you will also agree that it is going to be interesting times ahead. Let me know if you have any other thoughts around this.

Thanks Peter, for the links.


8 Responses to “Google and Adobe”

  1. Matthew Fabb Says:

    In some of the ChromeOS demos that Google gave, they included a chess game done all in Flash, so it looks like Chrome will quite likely come with Flash.

    Meanwhile Adobe has already demoed Android playing Flash on it (look up the demo up on YouTube) with the first beta set to come out early 2010. Google want Flash on Android in order to include a feature that is not found on the iPhone, in hope to get more of the iPhone market.

    Meanwhile, Google currently belongs to the Adobe’s Open Screen Project:
    This means Google is working with Adobe on the Flash Player source code to make sure it’s optimized for Android and now ChromeOS.

    The Flash Player itself will likely never be completely open source because of the video and audio codecs that Flash uses, which Adobe does not own but licenses. This means if Flash were to become open source, people would likely be compiling versions without these codecs, and these version of the Flash Player would work with existing Flash video and audio sites. This would diminish Flash’s use, which is why Adobe would never take this step. Even if Adobe starts using open source codecs, Adobe has always kept Flash completely backwards compatible, meaning all of those old codecs would have to become open source for this to work.

    Instead Adobe have created the Open Screen Project, where Adobe share the Flash Player source code safely with their partners to optimize and port Flash to different systems. So Adobe gets the advantage of open source projects of getting developers outside of Adobe improving the code, while still keeping it somewhat closed and in their control.

  2. SS Says:

    Things are a lot more murkier and On2’s history is very interesting to say the least.

    In previous times, On2’s open-sourced their VP3 codec and it was later spun-off as a separate project which came to be known as Ogg Theora – the only (as far as currently know) patent-free open-source codec in the market today. Of course, a lot of work has been done on Theora by the open-source community since VP3 days – and it is considered quite mature today.

    Later On2’s VP6 technology was selected to be the codec for Flash 8.

    Only in Flash9 was support for H.264 introduced.

    Also note that On2 is a cash cow as of now – since their technology is widely licensed (dont have the specifics though). But if they do open-source VP8 – then it will be interesting to see it go against Theora (which is effectively a sibling) and H.264 (which is a standard – though patent-ridden) .

    All these forces collided when the question of selecting an single open codec that all browsers will support at a minimum in HTML5 (for the video tag) came up recently. Firefox, Opera et al were all in favor of Theora. Google Chrome (bcoz of all the above reasons; they said they will actually support both Theora and H.264) and Apple Safari (since they almost exclusively depend on H.264) didn’t agree. Others dont want H.264 – since it is not free (patents) and hence requires royalties to be paid. At the end, it was a stalemate – and no specific codec is mentioned in the current HTML5 draft.

    So – yes. The world of video codecs sure is a very interesting field to watch and track 🙂

  3. Peter Thomas Says:

    @Matthew Fabb

    Adobe will obviously promote Flash as hard as it can and has some history withe Google (as the blog post cites) hence the Flash Lite on Android. There are plenty of chess games on Flash running on all kinds of browsers, so that doesn’t prove anything.

    I’m sure all the hard work getting the Flash code-base to work on Android is done by Adobe. Google would be happy that their platform is getting put to the test actually. Good for Android.

    Ha. The Open Screen Project. What a load of bull. From your blog it is evident that you are an Adobe apologist and in your comment, you actually agree that Adobe’s intentions are to control the Flash player. If Adobe really wanted to embrace open standards, you wouldn’t have them doing things like this:

    And this:

    Really, I’m tired of hearing the pathetic excuse that Adobe does not own the codecs etc. so can’t open source the player. Just admit that the real reason is that they want to continue the “plugin trap” that plagues the web today. Which you kind of did in your comment – so kudos for that 😉

    I for one (like many others on the web) do hope that Google open-sources the On2 codecs. Chrome is already open source and if it gets an open-source native media player (that other communities like Mozilla will quickly incorporate) I think that it will kill Flash in no time. I won’t get into the reasons as to why needing Flash to just play videos on web-pages is something of a sick joke. That has been documented on plenty other places on the web, such as the Ogg links that SS posted. I mean, just to get videos to play on web-pages I have to become a Flash developer or dig into obscure stuff like FlowPlayer and JW player, with their shady licensing schemes? Not to mention the security problems and web-pages that hang because the Flash player process started to act funny. See this New York Times article:

    In fact it is getting to a point that it doesn’t matter whether Adobe open sources the Flash player or not. The streaming protocol has already been reverse engineered by quite a few open-source projects, just look at the following (not exhaustive):

    The only thing these projects miss is video rendering.

    But it is only a matter of time before someone embeds and viola ! Open Source Flash Player done 🙂

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  5. Matthew Fabb Says:

    Hi Peter,

    LOL at being called a “Adobe apologist”. 🙂 I’m a web developer who these days makes a living doing Flash development after years of doing development with HTML, JavaScript, PHP, However, I have no problem in criticizing Adobe for things they have done wrong, such as the two items that you linked to. Also that unfortunately isn’t the first time Adobe has forced an organization or company to remove Flash from their name.

    That said, personally, I have no problem with Adobe keeping control of the Flash Player, as I think it’s a good thing to have a consistent runtime rather than multiple browsers with many different implementations where things run inconsistently. As a developer I like focusing on doing things once through Flash, rather than having to redo web applications multiple times to support a wide range of web browsers.

    Anyways, all of that is a bit off the main topic,, the main reason I was posting was that it looks like Google is including Flash with ChromeOS and will include Flash Player 10.1 in future versions of the Android.

    In the Flash Chess game I was talking about here’s one of the many online articles showing screenshots from the demos that Google gave:
    The chess game seen there is a Flash game called “flashCHESS III” and here’s the creator commenting on his game being included in the demos:
    So if Google is demoing a Flash game on ChromeOS, then obviously ChromeOS will include the Flash Player.

    Meanwhile, here’s a link to the Adobe MAX 2009 keynote, where they demo Flash Player 10.1 on an Android device:
    It looks like it could be an Motorola Droid, but it’s hard to tell as the device is all taped up to hide what kind of device it is, because at the time of the Adobe keynote the device they were using had not been revealed yet to the public.

  6. Peter Thomas Says:


    Appreciate your balanced response and thanks for the links.

    One thing I also wanted to mention is that probably Google has done the most in terms of pushing HTML + JavaScript as the dominant way to create RIA web-apps. Google Gears comes to mind for e.g. – enables offline apps. Look at Google Wave for instance. I think a couple of years back it would have hard to believe that such an interactive, rich UI could have been achieved using something other than Flash (or a thicker client).

    So it could be true that Google continues with Flash support in Chrome for now, but yes it will be interesting to see how things pan out in the future.

  7. SnR Says:

    All of which begs the question..can ON2 VPx be open sourced ?

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