Ludicrous Software

Mobile at MAX

I arrived home from MAX a few days ago, and thought I’d share my thoughts on the event, especially the mobile side of things. In general, as always, MAX was a fantastic few days. The sessions, the events, but most of all the people you get to reconnect with and the ones you get to meet for the first time make it so incredibly worthwhile. If you’ve never been, you should make a point of going - pretty much everybody who goes to MAX says that, but only because it’s true. In particular, it was great to see Dale, Evan, Max, and Scott again.

Anyway, mobile. You likely already know the two big mobile-related announcements from this year’s MAX: Flash Player 10.1 for mobile and devices, and publishing native iPhone apps from Flash CS5. I think Dale’s post about MAX nailed things, but I’ll add a few other random thoughts - it’s Thanksgiving today, so if this is a little scattershot, bear in mind that I’m suffering a turkey hangover…

iPhone

Not much to say about this that hasn’t already been said. The games that are on the App Store now were built with an early version of the software, and there’s definitely room to improve performance. Some of the demos that were shown in sessions seemed to run much better, but I’m not sure if that’s a reflection of better compiling, or better code to compile from (or perhaps both). In one session the presenters stated that a simple “Hello World” app would end up at about 8 MB; this seems incredibly large to me, but this may also be because I still do lots of work for a mobile market in which there are 100 KB limits on SWF (or other) files and data. Hopefully there are improvements in that area.

Flash Player 10.1

The other big announcement is, in the long term, a much more important one: Flash Player 10.1 in the browser on mobile and devices. The Open Screen Project has signed on pretty much everybody but Apple, so it has the potential to achieve what Flash Lite hasn’t been able to do outside of Japan: create a consistent runtime with a uniform method of getting content onto phones. In Japan, Flash Lite has been incredibly successful, for two main reasons: 1) a reasonably consistent runtime, with 2) a uniform implementation of the player. For years, practically every Japanese phone came with Flash Lite 1.1 installed as a browser plug-in. In a market used to consuming data on their devices, this created the perfect set of conditions for Flash Lite to be successful.

I think this is what Flash Player 10.1 could do. Of course, this is all long-term thinking, so it’s speculative at best - a FP 10.1 beta will be released soon, and we’ll start seeing devices with it pre-installed at least by this time next year. But, as I’m overly fond of pointing out, up until a few months ago I was still writing a ton of Flash Lite 1.1 code for the Japanese market, and we’ve only recently switched to projects targeting Flash Lite 2+. Things don’t change overnight in the mobile world, and it may be a while before there are enough devices out there with 10.1 installed to make it a viable target for development. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to playing with the beta; I want to find out just how consistent that runtime will be!