For the past six months, Amazon has been quietly testing what it hopes will be a better way to watch Flash video content on a mobile device.
Since February, some Kindle Fire owners have been seeing an option to use an “experimental streaming viewer” when trying to watch video on sites such as NBC.com, CBS.com and Fox.com.
Amazon Streaming viewer
The effort is made possible by the fact that the Kindle Fire browser, known as Silk, divides work between the device and Amazon servers in the cloud.
“We also wanted to use the cloud to offer new features or capabilities that solve customer frustrations — one we heard often from customers was that they wanted to view Flash content,” Amazon’s Kurt Kufeld said in an email.
Amazon is not the first to consider such an approach. Splitting the workload between the cloud and local computing has long been done by Opera and others as a way to save data, while iSwifter used a streaming approach to deliver Flash content to Apple devices, which have no Flash support.
Adobe at one point supported Flash natively on Android devices, but pulled the plug a couple years back. Even when it did support Flash, performance on Android devices typically left a lot to be desired.
Though not the first to use a streaming approach to handling Flash, Amazon has the potential to deliver a ton of Flash content to a broad audience. The company has been slowly rolling out the streaming option on more websites.
“Because this feature is built on the AWS cloud, expanding our list of available sites is as simple as a configuration change that immediately propagates to customer devices and we can scale out elastically based upon customer demand,” said Kufeld, who heads Amazon’s Silk browser team. “It’s still early days but we’re very excited about this feature.”
In just the first month, Amazon said it streamed 1.4 million minutes worth of video — and that was with only a handful of sites enabled.
Amazon has since expanded the option to a few dozen sites, and is looking to extend that further, as well as to get more of people using the service.
“We heard from a lot of customers that they were disappointed when Adobe chose to stop supporting Flash in mobile devices, so we’ve since been working hard to develop a solution for supporting Flash without compromising performance, security, stability or memory,” Kufeld said. “All signs point to ESV as a great solution for this, and we’re excited for more customers to try it out.”
It’s unclear just how far Amazon might take this — say, expanding from video into Flash games or other content that is slow to render on mobile devices.
“It’s still very early days, and currently we’re focusing on video,” Kufeld said. “I can’t speak to what we may do in the future.”