Friday, November 11, 2005

MAX summary with a mobile focus

It's a bit late but, having caught MAX flu, a particularly nasty strain, it took a while to get back to normality! The conference was a really great experience, and it was great to meet all the mobile people, both Macromedians and developers and also the normal people. It’s strange when you spend so much time working with Flash 4 syntax and then talk to people who use Actionscript 3 all the time! Is that why the mobile and devices team is abbreviated to MAD?

On a mobile front MAX was a mixed bag. There were obviously some really cool announcements such as the BREW and U10 developments. There were also some really interesting seminars and side events that gave a little more substance to the mobile movement. For example the Preminet solution that Nokia presented for the first time offers developers a clear route to market for their mobile applications. So that mobile developers can at least partly visualise producing applications, having them listed in an international catalogue that gets seen by service providers or consumers and then ultimately getting some sort of distribution agreement that places their application in the laps of normal consumers! That is a key development for Flash Lite developers.

I think that when Flash Lite content does start to be consumed on Nokia phones that it will create a much bigger splash than Flash Lite did in Japan. The reason for this is that Flash Lite in Japan is, and has always been for the most part a very simplistic content tool that has never really stepped on the toes of J2ME. I think that's probably the legacy of Flash Lite 1.0 and it is changing as more and more advanced Flash Lite applications and games emerge. But the point is that when Flash Lite emerges on Nokia phones it will most definitely be doing certain things a lot better than J2ME or C++ applications do currently. It will also be doing things that J2ME and C++ applications just don’t do. I don't want to go into a massive list of specific things but the keys facts are that because Flash Lite is so much quicker to develop for there is a whole range of applications/games etc that are economically viable in Flash Lite and maybe not in J2ME. Especially when you add on the value that Flash Lite gains by looking great, having fluid UIs, not having to be 'installed' as such, etc

We are still waiting to see how Flash Lite will be implemented on Nokia phones. There was the recent announcement of the Nokia Open Source browser that suggests at least a browser implementation of Flash Lite might be on the cards. This is I think a bit of a surprise for most developers who are used to using the standalone player, but nevertheless it highlights the range of opportunities that will be available for Flash Lite content. It also suggests that we might see a bit more Flash Lite implementation in the OS like maybe wallpapers and screensavers? We will have to wait and see.

As seems to be the case in the mobile industry there was a lot at MAX that was obviously 'no comment' territory. One area that I thought would have had more publicly available information was Flash Cast (now in its 2nd or 3rd year) but alas nothing was mentioned. It looks like Flash Cast remains a closed domain for now and probably until a few more operators have deployed it as a solution. Maybe when it is more established and operators are starting to expand the channels available the need will emerge for more developers. Or maybe it will always remain an invite only affair.

I also wanted to mention the XD team. They had a really interesting presentation that lasted all afternoon. Above all it highlighted how developers/designers really do need to constantly assess their UI designs and even more so with Flash on devices. By its very nature you can do almost anything with Flash and this makes it so great but also potentially disastrous in the wrong hands  What the XD team have done is really take the lead on fine tuning mobile UIs developed with Flash. I don't think the XD teams show reel is an exclusive 'this is how to design for mobile' – its more of a lesson in the level of detail people should go into when they do design for mobile and some great tips.

I thoroughly enjoyed MAX and met some really great people. Including on the Tuesday night where things remain really vague - you know you're in trouble when your own Hotel bar closes and you have to move on!

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