There’s been a lot of interesting developments with regards to Flash and mobile recently and thought it deserved a post and my ‘analysis’.
Flash Home was officially announced on February 11th at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We got to see a glimpse of what its about during the sneak peeks at the MAX conference last October (see video below) and it seems to be a very interesting approach to entice manufacturers to embed Flash on their devices.
Since Flash Home allows compelling, highly interactive and data driven interfaces to take over the mobile phone home screen and it plays nice with Adobe’s Flash Cast portal solution this must also be a very interesting offering to both operators and content distributors. Presumably having Flash Home on a device will mean it has Flash Lite embedded making it capable of playing back SWF content outside of the home screen environment.
Flash Lite 3
Flash Lite 3 also seems to be taking off rather well, there’s a developer edition available on labs.adobe.com and the Chumby already ships with it installed. I saw a Nokia presentation at MAX Barcelona where (I believe it was one of their executives) told us about plans to support Flash Lite embedded content in the Nokia S60 browser.
Then there’s Tamarin-Tracing, the new ECMAScript 4th edition virtual machine added to the Tamarin open source project. We’re not hearing a lot about this just yet but its specifically aimed at working well on devices with a low memory footprint. For some reason there seems to be somewhat of a taboo to acknowledge that this is indeed something on the roadmap for Flash on mobile and we saw several Adobe evangelists rephrase initial posts that made this a bit too obvious.
Are they afraid it could hurt adoption for Flash Lite 3? I’m not sure — I think you would have to be really out of touch not to see where this is heading with regards to the plans to eventually bring Flex to mobile.
Flash Player on the iPhone
Finally there appears to be a lot of hype around ‘Flash Player on iPhone’. We’ve heard this rumour a couple of times before but I have to admit it seems to be more credible now and it would make sense to see it rolled out with the SDK end of this month.
Adobe has been pretty low key about the possibility of a Flash Player on the iPhone and has diverted to question to Apple every time it is raised (and its been asked continuously). Reading between the lines I’ve had the distinct impression that the team has been looking into it and the ball was in Apple’s court.
Last summer had the opportunity to hear a very senior executive at Adobe respond to the inevitable Flash/iPhone question and it genuinely appeared to be out of Adobe’s hands but something they would like to see happen. I think the decision on Apple’s part isn’t purely technical. I’d be surprised if they’re not working on a RIA technology themselves and were trying to see if they could get away with shipping a device with a browser without Flash support.
I think Adobe has recognized it needs to do a real push to get Flash on devices and its trying to achieve this by attacking the problem from various angles. Flash Home is probably the most commercially interesting way to allow this to happen. Flash Lite 3, especially embedded on devices is also something manufacturers are especially interested in moving towards a better browsing experience beyond the high-end smartphones and handhelds.
My feeling is that Flex is the big thing within Adobe for the next few years and the Flash Platform strategy for all the products needs to facilitate that. What appears to be happening now is a move towards getting all mobile partners committed to Flash technology so it’ll be easier to do a massive roll out of Tamarin-Tracing once that is up to speed. The last thing they want is for Flex on mobile to have adoption problems like Flash Lite has had for years and only just is beginning to overcome.