Adobe offers up more Flash technology to open source

Move follows Microsoft’s Linux effort by a day; Canonical also makes open source move

Adobe Systems will offer more of its Flash rich media application platform up to open source Tuesday, a move viewed by analysts as reactive to the fierce competition Adobe faces in the rich Internet application space from the Microsoft Silverlight platform.

Also in the open source realm Tuesday, Canonical, commercial sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, will offer code for the Launchpad software development and collaboration platform in an open source format. The Adobe and Canonical contributions follow by one day Microsoft's contribution of 20,000 lines of device driver code for Linux.

[ The competing Microsoft Silverlight 3 was unveiled last month. ]

Adobe will make available via open source the company's OSMF (Open Source Media Framework) and Text Layout Framework. Formerly part of the "Strobe" project, OSMF allows for software-based media players to be built based on the Flash platform. Individuals could, for example, add new functionality around the Flash Player.

Text Layout Framework allows users to "to do all the things you want to do with text to make it really cool" on the Flash platform, said McAllister. Sophisticated typography capabilities can be added to Web applications.

The two offerings follow previous Adobe efforts to open source parts of the platform. Previous Flash technologies released via open source have included Flex and its compilers, and the Tamarin virtual machine. Specifications also have been released for streaming formats

"People quite often think that the Flash platform is a closed platform, Adobe-only," McAllister said. "What we're doing is continuing this commitment to making the unique features of the Flash platform open."

Although Adobe insisted its latest open source efforts were not done as any sort of response to Microsoft's Silverlight, analysts nonetheless saw a Microsoft angle.

"It's yet another example of the serve and volley going [on] in the RIA space," said Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst for application development at Forrester. "Adobe and Microsoft are pushing each other hard, and as a result, the state of the art for RIAs is advancing at an amazing rate."

"Adobe is in a race  with Microsoft for RIAs, and open source is a powerful way for Adobe to level the playing field considering Microsoft's huge mindshare and adoption among developers," said Melissa Webster, program vice president for content and digital media technologies at IDC.

The core Flash Player and Flex Builder IDE remain unavailable to open source. " McAllister said. "There's code inside the Flash Player that we don't own," such as codec technology, he said. Flex Builder, meanwhile, is built atop the open source Eclipse IDE.

Still, developers have more open source options with Adobe than with Silverlight, said Webster. She also cited Adobe's Open Screen Project as an example of openness.

"Yes, the Flash Player remains Adobe-proprietary, however with the Open Screen Project, developers can write their own servers to stream media to the Flash Player," Webster said.

Adobe's OSMF and Text Layout Framework better enable companies to take advantage of capabilities of Flash 10 without having to understand all the "nuts and bolts of low-level ActionScript calls and functions," said Hammond. ActionScript is the programming language for the Flash platform.

Adobe is working with Akamai to coordinate OSMF with Akamai's Open Video Player initiative. The companies will provide a framework enabling partners such as developers and content owners to build new services with high-end features.

Canonical's Launchpad, meanwhile,  lets developers host and share code for free using the Bazaar version control system. Developers now can contribute directly to Launchpad themselves.

"Launchpad is designed to accelerate collaboration between open source projects," said Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, in a statement released by the company.

"Making Launchpad itself open source fulfills a long term intention to give the users of Launchpad the ability to improve the service they use every day," Shuttleworth said.

While open source projects are hosted for free on Launchpad, closed source projects can use the service for a fee.