Is Flash Lite failing?
A few days ago I picked up an interesting twitter discussion (including Aral Balkan, Peter Elst and Scott Janousek) talking about Flash Lite failures. It got me thinking: is Flash Lite failing or not? Should we focus more on other technologies in the future or just keep believing in ourselfes, Adobe, the openscreen project, … Because a new year always brings up reviews, comparisons and expectations I thought it would be a good time to summarize my personal experiences and thoughts on Flash Lite.
Things I like about Flash Lite
- As a Flash Developer starting with Flash Lite feels comfortable as you are working in the same development environment.
- Using my basic actionscript 2 knowlegde Flash Lite allows me to quickly create rich mobile experiences.
- Flash Lite let’s you easily build a good looking UI and application navigation.
- I like working together with other CS3 tools in order to optimize the entire project flow ( photoshop/illustrator ) or tools to help you code ( eclipse/fdt ).
- There are a lot of good documents to help you get started with Flash Lite, guiding you through all the main topics ( syntax, memory management, cpu performance, interface design ).
- Although write once/run everwhere is a bit unrealistic, Flash Lite allows you to write your application logic and re-use it for other platforms that support Flash Lite.
- Flash Lite does a good job at scaling which comes in handy in a world full of different screen sizes.
- Developing in Flash Lite does not mean I can’t get any help from other Flash Developers. Even though my colleagues at Boulevart are not that into Flash Lite, I can always ask them for help as they are familiar with the platform, objected oriented programming in actionscript, using services, … their flash/actionscript experience does make big difference!
- We all know the Flash community is always eager to help. I never had problems contacting Adobe Mobile Evangelists asking for their advice. Same goes for Mobile Community Experts/Leaders.
Things I don’t like about Flash Lite
- Flash Lite offers limited interaction with the device. No direct File acces/download/upload, no direct communication with contacts, calendar, agenda, camera, bluetooth, … I know nokia just released some services for s605th edition devices allowing the Flash Lite player to do a lot more but as cool as it is, it just supports s605th edition Nokia phones.. Not a large set of devices.
- Flash Lite does not always performs smooth because of no ( or at least very little ) hardware acceleration.
- Packaging Flash Lite content is not easy. Providing a good user experience means providing installers. Because Flash Lite runs on different platforms you need a unique installer for each platform. There are a few good tools to help you with that but I still don’t feel comfortable dealing with packaging.
- Distributing and monetizing your Flash Lite content is hard, especially compared to Apple’s Appstore. Adobe is working on an AppZone in order to centralize their content as well, but for now I’m still jealous of Apple’s Appstore system. Easy to distribute, easy to earn money.
- There are still a lot of devices which are not Flash Lite enabled, especially compared to JavaME.
Things I’m thinking of
- I hope when the AppZone officially launches it quickly covers a lot of areas so we can all distribute our applications and see them downloaded/installed and payed for.
- I hope Adobe releases their mobile packager soon so we can easily package our applications into sis, nfl, cab, .. I saw Mark showcase it at Milan and it looked promising!
- I hope the open screen project makes other companies follow Nokia’s example and provide services that can be used from within Flash Lite in order to create richer and more interactive mobile experiences
- I hope Adobe ( and not only their Mobile Team ) keeps supporting Flash Lite developers/companies by helping them promoting their content. Adobe’s Max Awards is a great initiative and a fantastic experience but recently we won an award and after that I did not really heared much from Adobe besides from Mark who congratulated us. I did not even receive a max award winner badge to put on our blog, which surprised me frankly.
- I hope the redistributable player helps updating flash lite enabled devices resulting in a higher Fl3 adoption
- I can’t wait to create flash player 10 content for mobile devices. Really looking forward to it!
So, is Flash Lite failing or not?
When it comes to a mobile development environment I don’t think Flash Lite is failing. Although interaction with the device is limited, Flash Lite allows you to quickly create rich mobile applications providing a good looking and intuitive UI. There is always room for improvement but with a little bit of inspiration and creativity you quickly find yourself creating cool mobile content. Then comes the hard part: who is capable of using your application and how the hell is he going to find it, let’s say even pay for it? No AppZone yet, still a lot of devices not having a Flash Lite player and different platform support ( which I think basically is a good thing ) ends up with packaging/distribution problems. I think we all agree that Flash Lite’s distribution system and the lack of good monetizing opportunities are the biggest issues. I really hope Aral is wrong saying Adobe “missed the ship”. There is a lot going on with the open screen project and I really believe this will open up several opportunities in order to create a better flash mobile experience, for developers and for the end-users. I am looking forward hearing more on the Adobe AppZone and the effect of the redistributable player.
For a Flash Lite developer, there is no way to earn money like an iphone developer can but I’d like to end with a quote from Matt Politt:
It is not easy monitizing your Flash Lite content, but it does not mean it is impossible. You just have to know where to look ;)