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For this story–which I hereby dedicate to Richard Lamparski, whose “Whatever Became of…?” books I loved as a kid–I checked in on the whereabouts of 25 famous technology products, dating back to the 1970s. Some are specific hardware and software classics; some are services that once had millions of subscribers; some are entire categories of stuff that were once omnipresent. I focused on items that remain extant–if “extant” means that they remain for sale, in one way or another–and didn’t address products that, while no longer blockbusters, retain a reasonably robust U.S. presence (such as AOL and WordPerfect).
If you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that some products are still with us at all–and will be saddened by the fates of others. Hey, they may all be inanimate objects, but they meant a lot to some of us back in the day.
Click on to continue–or, if you’re in a hurry, use the links below to skip ahead to a particular section.
At Microsoft’s MIX conference today, the company Silverlight 3.0, a new version of its rich-media Web plug-in, that includes new multimedia capabilities that aim to it to parity with Adobe Flash, it can now run applications offline as well, as Adobe’a AIR can. Adobe will doubtlessly respond by improving both Flash and AIR, continuing its leapfrog race with Microsoft.
When Microsoft introduced Silverlight 2.0, it stripped out many of the advanced graphics capabilities found in Silverlight’s predecessor, the .NET Framework’s Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Adobe responded by giving Flash Player custom effects and filters as well as GPU hardware acceleration in an attempt to differentiate its platform.
Microsoft must have been taking notes. Silverlight 3 uses hardware graphics acceleration and includes support for 3D effects. Those features can be used for viewing up high definition video or even to jazz up business applications. It also reaches outside of the browser, and is cross platform for Windows and Mac (Mono Moonlight, a Linux version, is progressing more slowly).
Let’s be realistic: Flash continues to dominate the Rich Internet Application space. However, Microsoft is now concentrating so much of its resources on Silverlight that there’s no way Adobe can regard it as anything other than a real threat to Flash’s pervasiveness. I say, let the two companies have at it. The Web applications that developers create using either platform will be more powerful and provide consumers with better, more useful, and more entertaining experiences.
It’s tempting to crack a joke about “Skip Intro” coming soon to a smartphone near you. But seriously, this is good news: Here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Adobe is announcing that it plans to bring Flash Player to phones running the Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian Series 60 operating systems, as well as Palm’s upcoming Web OS, in 2010. This is supposed to be full-fledged Flash, not the slimmed-down “Flash Lite” technology that’s been on phoned for years and which has failed to make any impact at all.
Say what you will about Flash, it’s unquestionably a significant component of today’s “real Web,” and I’ve spent enough time being frustrated by its absence that I’m anxious to see how it translates onto a tiny screen. Even though the one significant platform that isn’t part of Adobe’s announcement today is the one I use most often: Apple’s iPhone. [UPDATE: Er, one of two–BlackBerry isn’t part of the announcement either.] Adobe still says it’s working on Flash for the iPhone, but that it’s really up to Apple to decide whether we get it. Which it is, as long as the App Store is the only viable iPhone distribution channel…
Adobe CFO Mark Garrett seems to think that Silverlight is “fizzling,” but Microsoft begs to differ. The exec’s comments came as part of a broader talk on Adobe’s business at the homas Weisel Partners Technology & Telecom Conference being held this week in San Francisco.
Garrett’s contention is that while Silverlight may have launched strong, demand has fizzled out and Adobe has moved ahead in terms of innovation, with Microsoft struggling to catch up. He also suggested that the company may not have the “mindset” to be aggressive with pushing the technology forward, BetaNews reports.
Microsoft seems to beg to differer however. In a response to Garrett’s comments, the company told us that one in four computer users have access to Silverlight, with 100 million downloads of the newest version of the platform since October of last year.
There have also been some important wins for Microsoft as of late:
- CBS extensively uses the platform to serve its content across its network of sites;
- The Presidential Inauguration Committee chose Silverlight to webcast the swearing in of President Obama in January;
- Netflix’s online streaming service is powered by Silverlight, allowing it to stream to both PC and Mac platforms.
Not too shabby for a platform that is apparently fizzling if Adobe is to be believed. Of course, Flash adoption is by far much more widespread, but let’s take into account the fact that the technology has been available for many more years than Silverlight has.
On a related side note, Moonlight 1.0 was officially released today, which is a open-source project to bring Silverlight to the Linux platform. The platform got its first big test during the inauguaration, when a preview version was released to allow Linux users to view the webcast.
According to Microsoft, the applicaition was downloaded some 20,000 times.
[David Spark (@dspark) is a veteran tech journalist and the founder of Spark Media Solutions, a storytelling production company that specializes in live event production. He also blogs and does a daily radio report for Green 960 in San Francisco at Spark Minute.]
Ten years ago when I worked at ZDTV (later to become TechTV) I made all the mistakes a first time producer can make in video production. I shot too much video. I didn’t set up a shoot schedule. I didn’t have an outline of what I wanted. And I ended up reshooting projects because I didn’t plan correctly.
Video production can be insanely time-consuming. Some of that is just a result of rookie mistakes made early on, but many production processes are simply unavoidable. Even though everyone has adopted non-linear video editing, watching video must be done linearly. A good producer can reduce time considerably if they plan better and learn how to more efficiently work their equipment. But even when you cut out all the fat, you still end up with the realization that video production is slow.
About four years ago, at CES in Las Vegas, I started to see a new crop of software and devices specifically targeted at reducing the time it takes to produce a video. No single product or technology has shown itself to be the panacea for speedy video production, but when you use these tools and tricks in aggregate they can save you an enormous amount of time. Here are some suggestions that everyone can use. These tips are not just for professionals, but anyone looking to cut down the time it takes to produce video. I know I’ve left a lot out, so I look forward to you adding some of your own recommendations in the comments.
Adobe on Wednesday shipped its latest update to what has now become nearly the de-facto standard for multimedia on the web, Flash Player 10. One of the most noticeable enhancements here would be 3D support, which would add a whole new layer of interactivity to Flash-enabled applications.
Using 3D would be easy, Adobe says — it would allow for easy manipulation of 2D images within a 3D space. Another enhancement is custom filters and effects, which would bring in transitions and the like into flash animations.
Enhancements to text layout would give designers more freedom and control over how fonts are displayed. Designers would also have more control over sound generation and drawing of objects through more complex APIs.
In a hat tip to the dramatic uptick in use of Flash to stream multimedia, Adobe has included with Flash 10 a system where the stream will automatically adapt to bandwidth conditions. This would allow for smoother video and audio playback.
Adobe has included some demonstrations of the new features on its website, which you can check out by clicking here.
We should see these features in use fairly quickly. As Adobe’s John Dowdell notes, Flash Player 9 saw 80 percent adoption within a single year. With the leap forward the company has taken with Flash 10, and the public’s willingness to upgrade their players, it shouldn’t be long before we see these new features in use.
You can download the new player on Adobe’s website.
One problem so far: WordPress’ flash-based file uploader seems to be incompatible with Flash 10. One good thing: I was getting a lot of choppy video playback in Flash on my MacBook Pro, that seems to be doing better with this version, although its not completely gone.
Are you experiencing any hiccups? Let us know.
It may be the single biggest thing on the iPhone to-do list that’s not completely under Apple’s control: getting Adobe’s Flash working on the thing. Yes, there are cynics,lovers of lightweight surfing, and haters of animated intros who will contend that the iPhone is better without Flash. But anyone who’s ever tried to visit a useful site that uses Flash knows that the iPhone’s Internet has been more of an almost-but-not-quite-real Internet than the “real Internet” that Apple touts.
There’s lots of hubbub on the Web today about a Flash conference in the UK where an Adobe executive mentioned that the company is working on Flash for the iPhone. As Silicon Alley Insider notes, this isn’t news–Adobe’s said it’s on it before. But it is an excuse to think about the implications and ask a few questions. Such as: