Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Flash for Mobile

About a year ago we were talking about some of the various platforms for mobile and took turns prognosticating on who would win. Windows Mobile with a ton of devices flooding the market? Symbian? In North America? Really? Flash. Now Flash is interesting. You get the filesize optimization. You have an army of graphic artist/developer types that many claim number north of 2 million people. Verizon is aggressively rolling out Flash (or is it Flashcast?).

After going through several different product cycles with disparate platforms that require development to the specific device, I long for the "write once run everywhere" that Java and others have promised. The big concern I raised when we were discussing this was Macromedia's acquisition by Adobe. Although I use and love products from both companies, Adobe's generally proprietary approach to things gave me pause. There is very little free in the Adobe world. When you combine that with the potential for disintermediating hardware OEM's and tripping over carrier sensibilities, it makes their presumed success less than a foregone conclusion.

At any rate I hadn't really spent much time with Flash as the current device support back then was limited. Fortunately since then they have rolled out more handsets and are up to version 2.0. I thought that I would try to take a spin with one of my devices. For Flash 2.0, the usable version, they only support Nokia devices. Bummer. I guess I can go grab one from the vault in the office but that kind of ruins the fun. My P910 is one of the supported devices for 1.1 so I went to download it and found my Adobe comments coming back to haunt me. For the low low price of $9.99 I could download the Flash player. Wait a second. I am a developer. I want to use your platform, albeit one that isn't the most current nor one that supports the handsets in my target audience. Grrr. I paid. I checked out some content and found that the Slot machine simulator was the best so far, which isn't saying much.

All my griping aside, Flash looks really cool on a mobile device and I certainly have really high hopes for Flash as a platform. There is no question that for application developers like us, we will be able to do some really cool things as the platform matures and the handset penetration grows. How Adobe chooses to balance widespread adoption versus unit based economics will certainly be one factor in addition to some of the handset and carrier sensitivities mentioned above.

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