Platform Shifts

Cool blog post by Don Dodge on platform shifts and how the world of technology is evolving. It also kind of mixes with a guest post on TechCrunch about the fragmentation of mobile.

The more interesting question for Flash developers is how the platform shifts and the fragmentation of mobile devices affects the Flash Platform. I think that the TechCrunch article is wrong, we are starting to see a coalescing around Flash. The Open Screen project has signed up every major mobile partner except for Apple including RIM, Nokia, and Palm. If you trust AdMob’s stats, that’s a pretty good swath of people across multiple regions. Now that said, we need to deliver and users don’t yet have Flash Player on their devices, but it’s close. Serge’s Jespers, my evangelist compatriot, makes a good point in his video about trying to find all of the Flash-enabled devices. We’re on the verge of a crap-ton of devices in the hands of actual users.

What’s unique about this approach is that these will be available over the air. I don’t think we’ve talked about specifics, but part of the Open Screen Project is that the devices have to allow over the air updating of the most recent runtimes. It’s far, far, far from a silver bullet in overcoming mobile fragmentation, but it’s getting momentum.

Mobile Flash Content

That leads into what’s driving runtime adoption: great Flash applications. Having played with Flash Player 10.1 on the Nexus One, I can tell you some things work great out of the box and that performance is quite good. But a lot of Flash content just wasn’t made for the small screen and it shows. Think of how much bigger a finger is than a mouse pointer and you’ll see the problems. I think the “hover” issues are completely overblown, but there is a big difference between Flash content in a mobile browser and Flash content in a web browser.

One of the implications of this platform shift is that the current web experience won’t translate 1:1. I think this is one area where the iPhone has been successful is by “shrinking” the web and making it touch-based without requiring any changes by the sites themselves. It feels like you have the whole web. But that’s an interim step and it has its limitations even on the iPhone. If you want to be on the cutting edge of this new shift as a Flash developer, you’re going to have to structure your applications in such a way that you can easily customize the user interface for multiple screen sizes.

My hope is that we’ll see a number of frameworks and tools that do just that, but I think we’re in that period of freedom where it’s going to take a bit of elbow grease to show everyone how it’s supposed to work.

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