Microsoft Corp. put more of its industry weight behind Macromedia
Inc.'s Flash technology, announcing that it will offer to bundle the
Flash Player with its Windows CE embedded operating system for device
manufacturers that use the operating system.
Under a licensing deal between the long-standing industry partners,
Microsoft will offer OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) a license
for the Flash Player at a reduced price when they license Windows CE.
That operating system can be used to build such devices as car
computers and smart phones.
"We've been working with a variety of OEMs who are Microsoft partners
to have the player available on their devices," said Peter Goldie,
general manager of rich media at Macromedia. "There aren't a lot in the
market yet that we can point to."
Four companies have agreed to take advantage of the new licensing
agreement, Macromedia said. They are Casio Computer Co. Ltd., Samsung
Group, Siemens Corp. and Thomson Tak -- an interactive TV maker owned
70 percent by Thomson Multimedia Corp. and 30 percent by Microsoft.
Up until now, OEMs have had to pay a licensing fee for the Flash
Player, royalties for each unit shipped that includes the player, and
costs associated with porting the player to different computing
platforms -- such as a cell phone or set-top box. Under the new offer,
those companies will only have to pay a standard fee factored into the
cost of the Windows CE license, both companies said.
"From an OEM's prospective, there are costs associated with bringing
over the Flash Player to a new platform," said Aubrey Edwards, director
of marketing for Macromedia's embedded appliance platform group. For
example, a cell phone that can display Flash content will need a
different customized version of the software than will a set-top box
that uses Flash to display content such as interactive program guides.
Macromedia did not say how much companies could save by acquiring
access to the technology through a Windows CE license.
Macromedia created Flash as a tool for Web developers to create
animated graphics and dynamic Web content. It has gained industry
backing mainly because Flash files are small and can be delivered
across the Web quickly. Flash content can also be resized without
losing image quality. Macromedia's Flash Player is a small plug-in that
users need to view that content on a PC or other computing device.
On the desktop, Flash technology has become ubiquitous for building and
viewing dynamic Web sites and digital animation. The Flash Player
currently is installed on roughly 97 percent of all desktops PCs,
according to Macromedia, and it has maintained much of that market
dominance through industry partnerships to distribute the player.
Microsoft said early this month that it would bundle the Flash Player
in its forthcoming Windows XP operating system.
However, the technology hasn't taken off very well in markets other
than the PC desktop, according to Macromedia. Its deal with Microsoft
should help spur adoption, Goldie said. "It will take the ubiquity of
the player beyond the desktop," he said.