But the real surprise was when Adobe Media released the Flash 9 player in July, just a little over a year after the company acquired Macromedia. As users updated their Flash players, they were upgraded to Flash 9, getting two, as opposed to the usual one, versions ahead. This marks the first time Adobe released a plug-in so soon before the development environment was to be released (slated for spring 2007, reportedly) which will lead to significantly higher--and faster-- adoption rates, already at 40 percent.
By Adobe releasing Flash 9 prior to the IDE (development environment comping out), agencies will be able to develop creative in Flash 9 content (they already can build to Flash 9 using Flex) the day the actual production environment is released. This is hugely advantageous to rich-media companies and agencies, since with previous versions of Flash, the hurdle each faced was low penetration because there was no push to implement the player prior to the release of the development environment. Because large publishers have been driving higher technical adoption (and Adobe's cooperation, of course) instead of being content to cater to the lowest common denominator, advertisers and agencies can now leverage the latest technologies faster and provide superior video experiences--all without sacrificing reach.
This paradigm shift, in which publishers are becoming more technology-focused and steering users toward the latest available solutions, allows them to offer better content and improved experiences, as opposed to solely going for reach. This consultative, forward-thinking and experience-centric approach translates to enhanced user-focused content and advertising.
So what does this mean for agencies and rich-media companies? Due to Flash 8's superior video quality and expanded dynamic layering capabilities enabled by alpha transparencies, agencies are already creating seamless video solutions that deliver more tailored, user-focused solutions.
And for rich-media companies? Flash 9's performance benefits only add to the possibilities, as it's been reported to be up to 25 times faster on a PC and beyond that on a Mac. These performance enhancements will help bridge the gap between playback experiences across different platforms. Additionally, rich-media companies can create video and rich-media solutions that are no longer contained to a square box or limited to 30 seconds.
Now that Flash 9 is at 40 percent penetration, with building done through a limited alpha release and Flex, the industry is on the cusp of realizing faster playback, true sound-synched animation, full-screen video capability directly from Flash and other expanded functionality. And thanks to publishers' and Adobe's proactive approach, rich media will only become all the richer in the very near future. But the big winner remains--of course--the user.