Thomas Joos | mobile application developer

(re)create your thoughts and expand your limits.

Is Flash Lite failing?

with 10 comments

flashlite

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 ;)

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Written by vilebody

January 8, 2009 at 10:03 am

Posted in Flash Lite, Mobile

10 Responses

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  1. Thx Thomas, great to have your thoughts!

    Steven Verbruggen

    January 8, 2009 at 10:41 am

  2. Hi Thomas,

    If Aral is wrong and Adobe didn’t missed the ship and they will catch up with their packaging system and flash lite distribution it still will take a year or 2 to get a reasonable penetration of supporting phones.

    I don’t know if there is a payment/licensing system integrated in the new AppZone (which, if not, is a big miss I think) but even if there is all that, how do you think you’ll stop piracy? It is still just a flash file you can spread around…

    I too think that if Adobe doesn’t get their act together – fast – they will be too late and other players will take the market fast. Maybe J2ME is a bit on an effort to learn, but once you’ve got the hang of it, your apps are compatible with much more devices (not to mention the hardware access and other advantages).

    Just some thoughts.

    Cheers,
    Dimitri

    Dimitri

    January 9, 2009 at 9:13 pm

  3. @dimitri: Thanks a lot for you sharing your thoughts

    – Let’s hope the redistributable player is a good move in order to quickly increase flash lite penetration together with the latest version of the player (currently 3.1)

    – About the piracy: you can protect your swf file to be spread around, more info on that here: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/devices/articles/flashlite_drm_05.html

    – I absolutely agree J2ME is a powerful platform. All goes well for the application logic but when it comes down to building an rich interface… and having a rich UI is something I think still is highly underestimated..

    Greets, Thomas

    vilebody

    January 10, 2009 at 11:20 am

  4. I agree that UI is a bit harder in J2ME then it is in Flash Lite.

    I just followed your twitter conversation with @peterelst and I think I agree with Peter. Flash Lite is fine for the presentation layer but for the logic layer, please don’t waist your time on actionscript and hook up a Java layer.

    Let’s agree that this fight is not yet over, but it won’t last very long ;).

    Dimitri

    January 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm

  5. Hi Dimitri,

    i’m not seeing this as a fight or as a right/wrong discussion :) I’m just sharing my personal thoughts and experiences. Yes I prefer to create mobile content in flash lite (my arguments are listed in the post above) but I’m not saying Flash Lite is perfect (far from). It’s correct J2ME is more efficient for writing application logic..

    This is something I hope to see changing soon. Nokia just published optimized services in order to talk to the hardware and device features uing api’s from inside of flash and for me this is a perfect match. If thanks to the openscreen project others follow I think we can use api’s and actionscript to create a decent application logic in Flash Lite. Because of the fact these api’s should be optimized for the specific platform I think it should run smooth enough.

    But for now I think we can agree Flash Lite/Flash Mobile has a long way to go before it will become a mature mobile technology and distribution system.

    Thomas

    vilebody

    January 10, 2009 at 3:57 pm

  6. Just for the record: I’m not seeing this as a fight or right/wrong discussion either ;-).

    Dimitri

    January 10, 2009 at 4:50 pm

  7. I know Dimitri, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts :)

    vilebody

    January 11, 2009 at 12:32 pm

  8. Good article with realistic points for what you think are good and what needs improvement. I’d like to understand from you and others what’s the most important thing that you need as a FL developer from Adobe and it’s partners (like Nokia).

    Bill Perry

    February 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    • hi Bill, thanks for your comment.. to answer your question:

      What I want from Adobe is a good distribution system, don’t want to repeat myself but the appstore is a perfect example.. Easy to distribute and earn money from. For Adobe, It is more difficult facing different platforms but partners like Nokia could pre install a platform optimized appzone which dedicates which apps the device will support. Developers could upload their apps and specify where it will work ( touch screen or keybased filter for instance ) this way they can upload multiple versions easily..

      What I like from partners , is that they release optimized flash lite services (like Nokia did, perfect! ) so we can also target one platform (like iphone developers) and get the most out of it.

      And last but not least, what I like from them both is more support in order to create exposure and visibility.. of course if it is relevant.

      Looking forward seeing you soon, maybe in Amsterdam?

      vilebody

      February 2, 2009 at 3:52 pm

  9. Hi

    I have build a number of Flash Lite applications, but have since moved away to just building a traditional mobile websites. I was a big believer in Flash Lite, but now ask myself, “What’s the point”. To my mind if I want to build something socially interactive or data intensive, I’ll do it in PHP and have it accessible by a lot more handsets.

    I hated leaving Flash Lite, but had too to keep pushing ahead with what my clients wanted.

    cheers

    Sean

    Sean Marx

    February 9, 2009 at 5:32 am


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