Later this month, Adobe will release out of beta the AIR-based Adobe Media Player that we first saw at the Web 2.0 Expo a year ago. It's a very attractive video player, needing only a more complete catalog to become a compelling product. (See the product manager's pitch and demo at the end of this post.)
As with many AIR programs, AMP is a hybrid online/offline app. If you use it while you're connected to the Net, it will download the media you're subscribed to in the background, allow you to play streaming-only files, and let you browse the AMP catalog of media. When you're offline, you're only able to watch all your downloaded files.
Being an Adobe product, the player is primarily a platform for Flash videos. To compete technically with other video sites, it displays videos in up to 1080p resolution. And the interface is slick and simple.
When you want to sign up for content, there are nice TiVo-like options. For example, you can select "catch up" to start downloading a season of a show you've missed from the beginning, or you can have it show only the most recent shows.
Content publishers keep a lot of control. They're the ones who decide if their media can be downloaded to your computer or only streamed, when the media expires, and if it can be transferred. Publishers can also place ads on or around video files, and they can even send current advertising messages to run with videos that may have been sitting on a hard disk for a year already. Publishers can also direct the player to adopt skins or themes when specific media plays. Adobe keeps a portion of advertising revenues.
The focus on advertising sets AMP apart from iTunes, which is sales-based. Adobe will likely offer paid content subscriptions and purchases in the future, however.
I see AMP as a competitor to Hulu (related stories), although Adobe's Ashley Manning Still, who demonstrated the product for me, considers Hulu--an online-only Flash-based player--as complementary or perhaps a partner. But since both AMP and Hulu are competing for the same advertising revenues, I'd say that puts them at odds.
Missing from AMP, until some time in 2009 or 2010, is "multiscreen" capability--inherent support for portable media players and set-top boxes. Meantime, just hook your AMP-running laptop up to your TV. As mentioned earlier, it displays true HD video. No YouTube blockiness here.
If you want to try AMP, you can get the beta now at Adobe Labs, but you need the old beta version of AIR (also on Labs). If you want to try the shipping version, which works with the current 1.0 version of AIR, wait until later this month when AMP makes its way to Adobe's shipping download page.
Either way, do try it. It's both a good streaming player and a strong client for subscribing to and watching downloaded Flash videos.