Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Opera Mobile and Flash

Seems like Opera for mobile is now actually integrating some form of Flash within the browser. There was some tentative announcement back at the MWC that it would support Flash Lite 3, I guess this is the first step.


I think what Opera do is just hook into whatever 'player' is present on the device, so they implement a standard api. However, that can only really lead to a pretty fragmented implementation. Also not sure why its even worth implementing Flash Lite 2.1, flash player 7 is understandable for the video.

My first test with a Nokia N95 8Gb crashed the browser when it tried to access Flash content, but to be fair that has Flash Lite 3 which isn't listed in the tech spec- interesting to see if it works on any Flash video content (Flash 7 is listed as supported - I pressume for windows mobile).

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

dealing with fscommand launch

If you've ever wanted to use Flash Lite to communicate with C++ then fscommand("Launch",application) is a very useful feature. Its purpose is to allow you to launch an application on the phone and pass in addional command line parameters if necessary. So you could for example launch the browser and pass in a web address. Thats a basic example and there are other ways of doing that with getURL(). The real value in the launch fscommand is that it allows you to launch your own C++ application in the background to support your Flash Lite application.

In a recent Flash Lite project where we needed to use fscommand("Launch",app)
we came up against a few issues when it came to s60 3rd edition phones. So heres a summary of things to consider when using fscommand("launch").

You will probably have to call fscommand("launch") from a button press as it needs to be a user initiated action.

For 3rd Edition phones, because of the way applications are accessed you do not give an actual path to the application. So if I wanted to open the browser I would just do the following:

fscommand("Launch", "browser.exe");

For 2nd Edition phones you have to give the full path to the executable file. So for example:

fscommand("launch", "z:\\system\\apps\\browser\\browser.app");

Passing in arguments works the same across s60 3rd and 2nd edtion devices by putting the arguments after the application. eg.

For 2nd edition: fscommand("launch", "z:\\system\\apps\\browser\\browser.app,http://bbc.co.uk");

For 3rd edition: fscommand("launch", "browser.exe,http://bbc.co.uk");

However we were unable to read the arguments for our custom application. So it maybe that because of the security of the 3rd edition only the native applications such as browser can accept incoming arguments?

When it comes 2 way communication between Flash Lite and other applications the more effective way to do this is by running a local server on the device and then using loadVariables or even XMLsocket to talk to the native app. Although theres no point having a local server listen out for FL calls if FL isn't even running. So fscommand is again crucial here as a the starting point of communication.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

SMS projection

SMS projection (via Londonist) and courtesy of Troika who have been playing around in an artsy style with what will eventually be the future of device interaction. Probably a good 10 years before its time but short range projection of mobile content is the only way that devices can evolve beyond the small screen. And of course in the future why would you want to project a text message? I hate to think that SMS will still be a force in 10 years. But talk about projecting audio and images/video without the need for a physical projection surface (maybe digital paper to start with) thats the future :)

Checkout Troika's machine here. It does take the concept forward nicely, even if it is more like a form of attack/confrontation rather than interaction.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Flash Lite 2.1 for free

We'll this was probably the most asked for and argued over issue with Macromedia's Mobile policy. Finally the Adobe Flash Lite player will be available to developers without a price tag. That should bring the Flash Lite forum traffic down a bit :)

Further still - the 2.1 player will be available to END USERS for free if they already have Flash Lite on their phone. So that means you can point users with 3rd edition phones to the Adobe site to get the 2.1 player before they consume your content :)

This was an essential move I think because the mobile market place is hotting up (competition wise) and 1.1 just doesnt cut it. Waiting another 18 months for 2.1 to make it out there would have been very painful. Thank you Adobe.

Read the release here

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

cell and shockwave link up

A few posts back I talked about the possible influx of content from Japan. So it was interesting to read via wirelesswatch that Cell have signed a distribution seal with Shockwave.com. who also funnily enough have a deal with Verizon for their Flash Lite based 'Shockwave Minis' arcade! In fact some of Cell's games are already part of the arcade, and you can play them here.

I think there are a couple of things that are actually bad about this though. Above all the Brew platform supports Flash Lite 2.1 and is capable of so much more than 1.1 based games built for in browser experiences. One button games have their place but its pretty limited. Flash Lite will be a lot more than that on the Brew platform as developers start to develop original games specifically for 2.1 not throwing existing content into the mix because its easy to do.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

s60 usability error

s60 is by far the most usable and usability conscious platform for mobile. So when you spot something thats not usable I guess its worth mentioning. I doubt I'd have noticed it on any other mobile OS, but because its s60 it sticks out :)

Recreated in Flash below, click on the movie then use the arrow keys to go up and down.


location entertainment - where is it?

Location based games and applications SHOULD be a core part of mobile phone usage. In reality they are non existent. To be a bit clearer, I am not talking about LBS (Location Based Services), as in services that are available based on your location - e.g. I want my nearest restaurant or show me where I am on a map. I am talking about social applications, games, community built info applications etc. So what I think should be happening is that location technology should be driving new experiences and creating whole new ways of living - but at the moment location technology is only in some very limited cases helping us do existing things more efficiently - that's all.

I think there are several reasons for this.

Making any kind of location based service requires adherence to codes of conduct and/or legal obligations. This is of course a good thing - but it does complicate the development process, especially when every entity has a slightly different approach.

When looking to develop a location based app here are 2 options for location applications and games: GPS or cellid.

GPS is really in too much of a niche to develop casual applications even using something like Flash Lite. After all one of the core attractions of location based games/applications is ubiquity - anyone anywhere, not any geek with a GPS module in one pocket and a smartphone in the other. As smartphones such as the N95 start to become available this may change but it's still a niche market and doesn’t offer the promise of GPS people or friends based interaction.

So the only real option for location based stuff is using the cellid of the phone. There are 3 ways you can use the cellid of the phone to create location applications.

You can do this through an operator api. This involves you calling the operator api over http and getting back location info based on the requested telephone number. However this makes no sense in the ubiquity stakes because it is normally operator specific and therefore only useful to businesses looking to consume business wide services on the same network. I suppose you could do some operator specific stuff - such as games but it doesn't really connect strongly with the 'my friends' side of things.

So then you have to look to a few of the operator location api aggregators who interface with all of the operators within a given territory. So this is great, it offers all the functionality needed and it's in no way hardware dependent. However because it just feeds off the individual operator apis it is stupidly expensive and therefore not at all conducive to any kind of innovation. I can't remember the exact cost per hit but its something like 20p per hit and you have to have an expensive monthly rental setup too. So there is no room for experimentation and it rules out any kind of real-time movement application or game where the server is regularly pinged. You could maybe have an application that did a daily request or an on demand request, but this is not what is exciting about location based services - it does not expose the potential that mobile has!

So the third cell id based option (if money is an issue, which it is) is using raw cellid data. This involves using Java or something else to get the cell id. Once you have the number you then have to try and make sense of it. This is the hard part, there is no real logic behind cell ids, they are just a number identifying the base station. Operators don't publish any valuable information about their base stations (for obvious reasons) so there is no way of matching a cell id to a physical location. The only way to make sense of cell id is via open source initiatives that try and collate useful cell data (few examples below).


The issues with the open data sources are:

they could be open to abuse much more easily than pay for models.
the information is fragmented
the information is frequently inaccurate (not so if its GPS based but if it's by user input)
any cell data must come from the device over http - so a device must report its cellid over http to a server. This is not the same for an operator because they automatically log this data every time a phone enters a new cell. So even if there were databases full of accurate information there would be the cost of regular data traffic to consider.

So to summarise - what a mess! There needs to be some shifting from the operators. Whilst it's quite expensive technology to setup and maintain - I think it makes sense that there is a business tier and a consumer tier to pricing. Not only does the business pricing already justify the infrastructure, but the potential mass market of a low price consumer tier would pay for itself and help define the new genre of data applications that operators are so desperate to have. What would be ideal? Well how about a European cross operator aggregator with a unified privacy policy/procedure, they could even aggregate wifi info when that starts to take over :)


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Symbian Smartphone Show Application

For anyone who couldn't make it to the show and missed the Flash Lite based Symbian Smartphone Show 2006 guide we (Flash Cell) built for Symbian.

Now that the show is over the Symbian website will probably stop offering it as a download, so if anyone is interested in downloading it you can get it here. There are 3 different versions, s40, s60 3rd edition and also s60 2nd edition. The 2nd edition version is the Teleca powered Flash Lite solution, which maybe of interest in light of the recent Teleca and Adobe announcement.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Symbian Smartphone show round up

So the SPS has come to end. I was down there on both days for a few hours to checkout the general buzz. Its not a massive show, but a very focused one and its always good to check out the latest devices. I managed to get my hands on the Samsung SGH i520 which is running the s60 3rd edtion FP1 and includes Flash Lite 2.0, so I bluetoothed across a few FL2 swfs to checkout the performance - seems pretty good. There was also an LG phone powered by the new s60 platform, great to see Nokia's implementation of Flash Lite going beyond Nokia! What happened to the LG licensing deal and the rollout of Flash Lite phones I wonder?

There was quite a lot of promotion of the new s60 fp1 as you'd expect, including bits of documentation about Flash Lite 2.0 on the Forum Nokia stand. In all there was a definately a more visible presence for Flash Lite from the previous year. People actually know what you are referring to these days when you say Flash Lite, rather than it being interpreted as the camera flash light :)

It was also good to see a few other Flash people there too.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Duck ... Flash Lite content coming this way from Japan

Just listened to an intersting podcast about a Japanese Flash Lite content company called Cell who were at CTIA showcasing their games catalogue of over 400! The guy being interviewed was obviously well versed in mobile conferences outside of Japan because one of the first things he asks the interviewer is "Do you know Flash Lite?" The interviewer resonds "yeah ....Flash based games right?" So clearly the interviewer doesn't know Flash Lite .... such a classic opening to a conversation about Flash Lite, I have lost count of the amount of times I have experienced that opening sequence :)

So whats interesting about all this is that while many early adopters of Flash Lite outside of Japan have looked on with envy at the market penetration of Flash Lite over there, content producers in Japan have just been building away. Not only does the Japanese market offer a great market base, the performance of Flash Lite on the handsets is also way superior - 30 fps is not a problem.

So the success of Flash Lite in Japan is unquestionable and the net result of that is that there are lots of good sized content creation and distribution companies who specialise almost exclusively in Flash Lite. But the market is now totally saturated. Recently when I spoke to a top distributor in Japan they told me they were only interested in 3g content as opposed to 2.5g and that translated as music and manga, not wallpapers, screensavers or games!

I guess it comes as no surprise then that companies with lots of assets and production power will start to look outside Japan. Cell say they have 400+ games and a production line that produces 12 games a week. Now, these are obviously pretty impressive figures even for the casual genre that Flash Lite fits into. However the key question I think for Japanese content creators looking overseas is what percentage of their catalogue is culturally exportable. Porting their content to English version should be easy enough but will consumers 'get' a lot of the content the way Japanese consumers have?

One of the reasons Cell have 400+ games is because Flash Lite content is quick to build and quick and easy to consume. Also dont forget that Flash Lite games in Japan are entirely browser based. So in the interview when they say 200,000 downloads a day I would guess thats actually 200000 hits per day. Of course you can save browser games locally but the point should be made the consumption model is so much more appetising and free flowing when compared to games consumption in Europe or elsewhere.

So the key point to all this is that Japanese content providers face the same big hurdle that Western content providers do when trying to get into Japan - there are massive cultural differences. I think is so much more relevant to Flash Lite than other technologies because its such an expressive technology and the content is so low brow (almost viral like - see internet viral campaigns) that it absorbs a lot of cultural influence. So take the example of Playstation games - these are big budget games that feed off raw gamer needs, no frills, they are not culturally influenced. A lot of Flash Lite content has a cultural context.

I look forward to seeing how well Japanese content providers do in shifting content in the newer markets! If they select the right products, there are still a few significant technological differences between Japan and non-Japan in Flash Lite implementation. Only titles that can work with less processing power, can adapt or justify the different input methods, can find a identity graphically and have a cultural context will make it. See one such example below.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Mobile Monday starts in London

Last monday I was privillaged enough to attend the very first Mobile Monday in London. This will hopefully be a monthly affair as per tradition in other cities. It was a really good event and all three speakers offered up a really good insight into their particular areas of work. It was really good to hear and talk to developers, operators etc who have been entrenched in the mobile world for a while. Its pretty clear that there are some massive hurdles which the mobile community has to deal with to create the promised future and if technology and standards dont upset the path then regulation can always chip in too! I am suprised this has taken so long to happen, London seems like one of the biggest Mobile hubs around - long live Mobile Monday :)


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!


Monday, October 10, 2005

p990i has arrived!

Today Sony Ericsson announced the successor to the p910i. The first phone anywhere based on the new UIQ 3.0, it appears to be the perfect phone for gadget freaks and business people alike. It boasts the following key features: wifi, 2 MP Camera with video, UMTS (3G) and all the other standard features you'd expect. It looks a lot better than the previous P series models and the flip functionality for the keyboard looks to be much more user friendly than its predecessors.

In line with all Sony Ericsson 3G and Walkman branded phones, the p990i has Flash Lite 1.1 preinstalled. It will be interesting to see how this is implemented. Current SE models that have FL 1.1 obviously do not use UIQ 3.0, add to that the p990i's uniqueness and it would be fair to assume the implementation will be different. It would be nice to see FL implemented as the best of both worlds - the standard wallpaper/screensaver/browser implementation found in other SE phones plus the standalone player. This would be a much more useful setup for applications and full screen gaming. The p990i could well be the best mobile device with Flash Lite 1.1 preinstalled to date! Hopefully there will be an opportunity to see it in action as it is unveiled at The Smartphone Show 2005 in the ExCeL Centre in London tomorrow.


Monday, September 26, 2005

O2 announces UK i-mode launch

Finally i-mode is coming to the UK courtesy of O2. It will be really interesting to see how it takes off, assuming its been implemented with some quality content. Launch date in the UK is set for October 1st and its seems like they have quite a few big players setup to provide content and services. As far as the handsets are concerned, theres 2.5G and 3G but other than that the specs are little thin at the moment. There is no sign of Flash Lite in the specs, as an integral part of i-mode it would be a shame if it isnt installed in the handsets.