Reading notes on Barcelona announcements

Big news yesterday… even further industry support of Open Screen Project, redistributable Player for Nokia and Microsoft smartphones, new Acrobat Reader for mobile with reflow layout, a $10M fund for mobile projects, more. Here are the press releases.

I spent most of yesterday reading commentary. Here are some quotes which caught my own interest — not an overview, more like reading notes — background info up towards top, third-party reactions down toward the bottom.

The one-sentence summary? Computerworld phrased it well: “Google, Microsoft, Palm and Nokia are all expected to release systems or phones next year that will be able to display the same videos and applications as the most recent Flash 10 player for desktop computers.” That’s the new cross-device runtime, beyond the old and very successful Flash Lite runtime. Big momentum now.

On stats, you may have heard that “one billion Flash Lite devices shipped” phrase when it broke into news a few weeks ago… Adobe delayed a press release until this World Mobile Congress event, in case you were wondering about deja vu. There was also a stat of “Flash Lite shipped on 40% of all new handsets in 2008” which was new to me, and which I haven’t seen sourced… I’ll be trying to lock that down, get a link.

[Update, 02/24/09: The stats both came from Strategy Analytics, in this PDF: “We estimate that over the next 2 years alone, around 1.5 billion Flash Lite enabled phones will be shipped globally, taking the cumulative total to over 2.4 billion handsets by the end of 2010. Flash Lite is being installed in a greater number of handset models from more OEMs than ever before and penetration is expected to grow from 40% at the end of 2008 to over 61% by the end of 2010.”]

The Reader Mobile news didn’t get as much play as the Flash announcements, but it’s significant… the concept of “PDF reflow”, where existing PDF can change its layout to display efficiently on small screens, is huge… adds one of the benefits of HTML to the predictable-layout capabilities of PDF. There’s also support for the EPUB standard (digital books) and Adobe Content Server (protected documents). The press release lays out the significance, and Bill McCoy is a good source for news.

I don’t know the support structure for the Redistributable Player — who handles an update if something goes wrong, etc. It’s apparently limited to machines with an operating system which supports live updating, and is geo-restricted.

“Consumers using supported Windows Mobile and S60 phones in India, Italy, Spain, UK, and the U.S. can easily download applications.” [Adobe Labs]

Mark Doherty [an Adobe employee] added “OTA is available in US, UK, India, Spain and Italy with more following quickly, anyone can download the player from Adobe Labs if OTA is not available.”

In Silicon Valley press, many wove in lines about Apple iPhone. (I didn’t find any statements from any Apple employee anywhere about the event.) Adobe’s Anup Murarka had the best quote on the simple realities:

“‘We would love to see [Flash] on the iPhone, too,’ said Anup Murarka, director of Technology Strategy and Partner Development for Adobe. ‘But it’s Apple’s decision on when and how they support any new technology. So we will continue to work on it.'” [CNET]

And for RIM BlackBerry: “…Adobe is at an even earlier stage with RIM. ‘We’ve had some initial conversations and are evaluating different approaches to be taken,’ [Adobe’s Anup Murarka] said. ‘There is a lot of interest from BlackBerry enterprise customers to be able to build Flash apps. But there is no working solution yet.'” [Computerworld]

Adobe’s goal is simple — we want to make it easy to publish to any screen. Any screen.

One of the oddest phenomena of the past year has been how Flash Lite paying licenses have blown past expectations — even after Adobe announced that the older mobile engine would be replaced by the desktop version and would not require license fees! I credit Apple’s iPhone for raising the bar, and proving to manufacturers and operators that consumers enjoy better experiences. (I guess we can now bury last year’s meme that Flash Lite licensing fees were holding it back. 😉 A representative quote in The Standard:

“Adobe’s Flash Lite multimedia player is spreading like wildfire on mobile phones, according to third-party statistics released by the company on Monday. According to market researcher Strategy Analytics Inc., Flash Lite will have been shipped on 1 billion phones by the end of March this year, one year ahead of Adobe’s earlier target… ‘The take up of Flash Lite has been staggering to be honest,’ Strategy Analytics’s Stewart Robinson said in an e-mail… ‘I think it also comes down to the fact that competition is almost non-existent,’ Robinson said, adding that he expects another 1.5 billion smartphones with Flash Lite to ship in the next two years.”

Windows Mobile 6.5 was announced, and the “deathmatch” rhetoric of the blogosphere got trumped by the realities of everyday life:

“The latest version of Windows Mobile is shipping with Flash Lite, but there’s no word on when or if Microsoft will debut its Silverlight on mobile.” (Other quotes confirm that Silverlight 1.0 for Mobile will be on Windows Mobile eventually… there may have been dates offered in the past, but no date was offered this week.) [Wireless Week]

“Perhaps the most interesting part of Microsoft’s new OS is an updated version of Internet Explorer for Windows Mobile. The company said the new Internet browser features the same ‘engine’ as Microsoft’s browser for desktop computers, and can render Adobe Systems’ Flash technology… Strangely, Windows Mobile 6.5 does not support Silverlight, which stands as Microsoft’s answer to Adobe’s Flash on the Internet. Microsoft executives hinted that Windows Mobile would support Silverlight at a later date.” [RCR Wireless]

Some of the expert quotes contained jarring notes… I have no idea what the speaker might have intended with this “look how long it took Macs to get Flash” line:
“The other reason, at least with Apple, is business. ‘Apple wants to push its own technology, in this case, QuickTime,’ Gold said. ‘It has its own interests at heart. Look at how long it took to get Flash onto Macs. I honestly don’t think you will see Flash on the iPhone anytime soon.'” [Computerworld]

Some made simpler, more direct, and more observable points:
“Say what you will about Flash, it’s unquestionably a significant component of today’s ‘real Web,’ and I’ve spent enough time being frustrated by its absence that I’m anxious to see how it translates onto a tiny screen.” [Harry McCracken]

At The Boy Genius Report, the comments were not deep, but were excited… it was the emotional tone which struck me here. People were involved and committed to a consumer device… doesn’t always happen.

Now, for the bobos…. 😉

Erick Schonfeld’s TechCrunch article is snarky, but he gets outdone by the head-in-buttiness of the comments… sample:
“The fact that they left Flex 3 out of CS3 premium suites left me SO BITTER, that I think JavaFX will have to take it’s place.”

The most negative (and unrealistic) assertions were from Apple fanboys — while reading through the comment section at A VC from NYC I wanted a little webcam to see how these anonymous spouters of balderdash lived their days:
“Last time I checked, flash is not an open standard. HTML 5 is open and handles 95% of what flash is used for.”
“Mobile flash is nerfed (I believe Steve called this out), and I’m about 99% positive that the version of flash on Nokia and Palm will not support Flex/AIR apps.”
“Because Flash is a proprietary technology, while HTML 5 is an open standard. When it comes to the Web, open standards will prevail. Flash is the past, HTML 5 is the future.”
“As a number of commenters have pointed out, Flash is a hog.”

Just goes to prove that internet text is bloated, I guess. 😉

I’ll keep reading today, and will update this post if I find anything significant. If you caught a novel perspective or useful news, or have questions about any of the announcements, please drop a note here, thanks!

3 Responses to Reading notes on Barcelona announcements

  1. I’m confused about your “spouters of balderdash” comment with regard to standards. The main point of two of the “spouters” is that Flash is not an open standard. You suggest that this is false (by calling their comments “balderdash”).
    [jd sez: They’ve got assertions, not backed up by evidence. HTML5 may be a nice addition to our overall technology base, but to cite it at this stage as a realworld replacement for things which people actually use is, well, bigoted.]
    For a format to be an open standard, all information needed to implement a reader for all parts of the format must be available (this is the bare minimum). Currently there are no plans to release the specifications for RTMPE or the Sorenson Spark codec, which are both part of the Flash format. Until these specs are released, Flash is not an open standard.
    To give the term “open standard” the most liberal possible meaning, I didn’t mention patent issues. If we were to also consider those, the Flash format would be even less open because one must pay royalties to H.264 patent holders, among others, to distribute a Flash player.
    If you disagree with my definition of “open standard”, I’d like to hear what your definition is.

  2. John Dowdell says:

    Sorry if that read wrong from your viewpoint, Denver… in the context of comments at Fred’s place you’d see that the word “open” is used there as a way to dismiss out-of-hand useful, proven capabilities. Please read it in the context of their conversation, rather than in the context of some other conversation.
    Some of the mind-fragging misstatements in those statements:
    “Last time I checked, flash is not an open standard.”
    Implies binary either/or. Considering what Adobe has donated to creating an “open standard” ecology around Flash (from publishing a file specification just like HTML does, to using, contributing to and donating things that are called “open standards”, to the ECMAScript work and the Tamarin donation, and more), the only thing I could *guess* that phrase intends to mean is “governance of innovation should be in a W3C-style process and nothing else is acceptable”. That rubs me wrong, particularly considering what we see of the politicized processes and their slow pace of useful results.
    I want “The Open Web” to open up. Guys like the above are trying to close things down. And they’re not communicating usefully about what they’d prefer.
    “HTML 5 is open and handles 95% of what flash is used for.”
    That’s plain stupid. Seriously. Calling it “balderdash” was just me being polite. 😉
    “Mobile flash is nerfed (I believe Steve called this out)….
    “nerfed” means… whatever. “Steve” means “Steve Jobs”, authoritarian mysterian at Apple. Jobs made some comment a year ago and never explained himself. Altogether: whatever.
    “…and I’m about 99% positive that the version of flash on Nokia and Palm will not support Flex/AIR apps.”
    The announcements were about the desktop Player 10 codebase running atop smartphones. It runs Flex. (AIR, of course, is a cross-OS desktop runtime for today’s webpage applications, not the in-browser runtime.)
    “Because Flash is a proprietary technology, while HTML 5 is an open standard.”
    “Because this food is holyman-blessed, while that other food is tainted.” “Because these lottery numbers are lucky, while those lottery numbers are unlucky.” “Because this restaurant is stylish, while that restaurant is not stylish.” Whatever.
    And he’s presenting “HTML 5” as some sort of realworld deliverable, rather than as a heavily-politicized and rather dysfunctional landgrab attempt to commoditize the UI layer while maintaining proprietary device, services, and (most importantly) advertising-personalization layers, and which may *perhaps* become actually usable some day.
    Go ahead and do today’s webpages “in HTML 5”. There’s no there there. There may be a there there some day, but not this day. To take his time to write this in a public forum… well, like I said, if I could watch the person behind the anonymous words, the words may more sense.
    “When it comes to the Web, open standards will prevail. Flash is the past, HTML 5 is the future.”
    … a stirring anthem starts, the troops march down the street, the ladies cry into their handkerchiefs….
    “As a number of commenters have pointed out, Flash is a hog.”
    Any technology benefits from improvement, but that statement is missing “compared to what”. As such, it is “text bloat”.
    I’m tired of the needless acrimony. I want to see more improvement of our species’ communicational abilities — and the more contributors, the better. But in reading that page of comments, it’s very clear there are indeed “anonymous spouters of balderdash”. And I want them to do better.

  3. Michael says:

    When will Apple wake up and realize that Flash is vital to a full internet experience. The iPhone’s lack of Flash capabilities is the only thing keeping me from purchasing it. I hope they’ll get over this stupidity/arrogance soon.