Archive for August, 2010

Evaluating device choices

We’re entering a period of high change, high choice in new types of devices… phones, tablets, readers, televisions, computers in various form-factors. Things will change even quicker as more operating systems make their Flash-enabled releases. I don’t know enough to offer a model-by-model buying guide, but here are a few quick questions which can help classify device choices.

One of the tricky incentives is that nearly every manufacturer wants to highlight the world’s creative SWF content… they want Flash. This leads to differences between various Player 10.1 and Flash Lite offerings… between devices which have worked with Adobe for mutual optimization and those which haven’t… even between Adobe runtimes and non-Adobe SWF renderers (whether JavaScript or native code or third-party ports).

Fastest shortcut is to check the devices Adobe has tested, in the Player 10.1 System Requirements page. [Update: New device page now available, more models.] These are known quantities, where both parties have worked together for a highlighted release. I don’t know how frequently this list will be updated as device shipments swell this autumn, but if you see a model on this list, then you know Adobe has confirmed the results.

Next, check the partner list at OpenScreenProject.org. These are manufacturers who are working with Adobe to bring a consistent high-performance interface layer across any screen. If they’re on this list then check more into particular models, but if they’re not a partner, then it’s good to check more into their particular SWF support.

Those are the big two differentiators — look for a known quantity, whether a model or a vendor. Here are some other tips, based on current online conversations.

  • Whose code? If an unexpected site offers an installation called “Adobe Flash Player”, then please really check into what it really is. There are some legit non-adobe.com installations (OS partners, some high-profile download aggregators, a few) but if a download doesn’t come from adobe.com, then it’s good to wonder why. Same goes for the operating system. Mainstream configurations are more predictable. (The history of early PostScript has some parallels, but on today’s Web there are additional security concerns.)
  • Flash Lite or Player 10.1? Up to you. Each is a different era, will do different things. There have been a billion or two devices shipped with Flash Lite through the world, and they’ll continue to play a role for some time to come. You may want your own high-end most-current device, but it’s really vital to know how your potential audience may experience things too. If you’re developing creative work for realworld audiences, then experiencing their experience is vital. Up to you.
  • Will my model play Flash later? Will it update? The manufacturer will be the best source of info. The general goal is for all devices to just automatically auto-update as time goes on, but it will take awhile to achieve that.
  • Will it all be totally groovy? Groovier than without, but the World Wide Web’s graphics & video haven’t always anticipated being displayed on itty-bitty screens (or great-big screens either, for that matter). It will take a few years before the Web is equally happy on all types of displays. High-resolution video files will particularly strain a connection. Set your expectation against prior reality, not idealized reality. It’s a big step forward.
  • How to troubleshoot? First step is to identify the actual problem, whether it’s stability, or performance, making the problem happen on-demand. On customizable devices it’s particularly necessary to get back to a known configuration. Adobe has info on general support, but for a new device, your manufacturer’s support area would likely have more pertinent and timely info.
  • Player vs AIR: The Adobe Flash Player works within browsers, and there’s a lot of existing web content, whether that’s one-third, two-thirds, whatever. AIR is applications, where the interface logic and data remain on your personal machine. Whether the app code itself is “in the cloud” or “on the desktop” is your own choice, and most people find both are necessary. First AIR/mobile deliveries are expected to appear on Android later this year. Do what makes sense for you now.

Bottom line: Try lots. Not just one form factor either. The devices you’ll use daily eighteen months from now likely don’t even exist yet. Experiment. Figure out how applications should work in daily life, how these devices should bend to your will. Watch young kids, to see how they naturally want to use it. Even if you can’t purchase one soon, then you’re still free to think, to imagine, to figure out what would be really useful, in a world where any screen communicate with any other. Now’s the time. Go for it.

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[Comments: Platform Wars elsewhere — and personal attacks from anonymous accounts, no way. Creating the future is bigger and more important than any investment in a brand.]

What’s the point?

Odd… long unhappy writing of trying to install Player on an Android device got pushed up to Techmeme with hot title and no linking blogs… author finally approved a comment offering help with getting it to work… but the only reply was to another comment:

That said, the point of my article is that mobile Flash is a huge disappointment so far b/c it doesn’t work as advertised.

Wouldn’t it be better for “the point” to be “I just want to get on with my work?”

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Resources: Main Player Support page… troubleshooting Windows, Macintosh, Linux
quick guide for desktops… for mobile, check for best links provided on your product’s official support pages.

For what it’s worth, biggest Android problem I’ve been running into online is when people had installed some type of hack into the system in hopes of getting Flash earlier than their manufacturer deemed prudent. If you’re having problems where you shouldn’t, then please get the device back to a known state first.

If you see other people enjoying performance which you are not, then that’s an indication that you might be able to change something, improve things. You can expect to achieve the performance others do.

Better questions

“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.”Claude Levi-Strauss

Augusts online are usually the time of scandal and high emotion, all based on little real news. It has gotten a little more dire now that many websites are paid by the click. “Is the Web dead? Is Net Neutrality dead? Did Privacy kill it? And what does Apple think of all this?” You know the drill.

But what’s going on around us, nearly unnoticed besides the pretty shiny drama, is the great advance humanity is making.

We’ve got the first universal translatorsdisplay screens big as six football fields… early control of external devices through handheld control panels… assistive technology which can turn anyone into Superman. It’s no longer sitting at a desk, staring at a screen.

Good progress, but we humans don’t know how to architect this stuff well. We made Usenet open to all, and forgot about spammers. Then made the same mistake with email. The World Wide Web of hyperlinked documents got buzzworded by “Web 2.0″ for third-party tracking. We yak yak yak and miss the big picture.

You’re living at a time in human history where, within two years, most everyone everywhere will have the world in the palm of their hand. And also, you’re one of the relatively few who sees this future coming and can do something about it, can influence its course.

It doesn’t really matter at all what brand of device is in their hand. The big question is, how will they use it, and how will we change as a result? How can we design things now to bring about a better result later?

You have the opportunity to change this, just by your day-to-day awareness… just by the questions you ask each day. The techblogs are a distraction, with the same dynamics as celebrity TV shows. You have to choose the questions you ask, else others will choose them for you.

With such massive disruptive opportunity arising in day-to-day life through multiple screens, what’s most important to you in the way they will be used? And what can you do to bring about the type of future you’d like? That’s really a much more valuable question to ask.

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Like to close out with some of the quotes from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen which were in that interview in The Telegraph, almost hidden beneath the “But what about Apple” veneer.

“We’re really filling out the entire chain of what we can deliver to our customers,” he says.

“One of our key objectives was continuing to help our customers with the ability to have this content and application displayed on multiple devices. We’ve seen the explosion of smartphones and TV. It’s very exciting.”

“We’re delivering on our promise of enabling people to author once and deploy multiple times,” he says.

“It’s so early in the entire mobile revolution. People are going to use mobile devices to do more and more in terms of accessing content and applications on the web.

“Digital publishers are undergoing a massive transformation in terms of the business model and the emergence of the tablet devices as well as smartphones is a new opportunity for them to monetise their content.

“We’re a significant part of helping them make that transformation. Marketing firms around the world are all moving their businesses online.

“There have been so many naysayers about our ability to take Flash and all its power and make it run and sing on mobile devices and we’ve proved that can be done. We’re mission-critical to the companies we work with.”

“Around the world, when I tell people that I work for Adobe it’s amazing to see their faces light up when they talk about Photoshop and how it’s changed their world, or Acrobat and PDF and how they’ve helped them be more effective.”

(Adobe, I think, is a reasonable bet in all this… the company has had the good fortune to be oriented from its start around expanding the possibilities of human communication. Creative tooling has also sensitized Adobe early on to solving real human needs, and reconciling diverse desires. Adobe’s business is relatively transparent. I think it’s a trustworthy endeavor.)