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The Mobility of Flash Applications

February 12, 2007

On Thursday February 08th, 2007, James Eberhardt spoke with the one year post-grad Interactive Multimedia students at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.  James Eberhardt is the 2006 Flash in the Can Programmer of the Year and has a long history developing programs that are compatible with mobile technology.  He is the Director of Marble Media, which deals with TV, interactivity and developmental technology.  He also teaches periodically at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Mr. Eberhardt made a particular note that he is not a designer.  He travels and interacts with those who have a vested interest in creating new applications for programs like Flash.  Recently, he visited the Canadian Film Centre and saw a pda (Personal Digital Assistant) system that is tied into a GPS (Global Positioning System).  This struck him as a very unique and interesting way of creating material that engages a user with his or her environment and he sees this as something that will become increasingly more popular in the future.

In the Interactive Multimedia program at Sheridan College I had the privilege of working in a team that created a website based on the technology of Steve Mann.  We worked arduously to come with ways to convey his incredibly unique technology called the ‘WearComp’.  The WearComp was a wearable computer that was used to alter or enhance the reality that one was surrounded by.  An integral piece of this technology was called the EyeTap, which was an eyepiece that was used to record what the user would see and also change what the user saw.  The EyeTap acts as a “mediator” to one’s reality.  For example, one can filter out what they want to see by removing advertisements and replacing them with images of their choice.  The user can enhance their reality by sending messages to others or posting reminders, which are triggered by visual cues.  We conceived that Mann’s technology could be used as a GPS that allows the user to gain knowledge of important historical landmarks and coincidentally this is what someone has developed at the Canadian Film Centre in collaboration with mobile technology.

 James Eberhardt went on to discuss the use and saturation of SMS and MMS messaging systems, which is otherwise known as text messaging.  SMS is text only and MMS has the ability to add images, video and audio.  This is currently the most widely used mobile application.  There are charges that apply to each text and the ability for a mobile company to profit off of this quite extraordinary.  He discussed how certain messages require additional charges and how “short codes” are approved for use across carriers; e.g. “TOR”- for Toronto.

An example of this massive profiteering by a phone company or a company that has set up an environment for people to use a short code is the television show ‘American Idol’.  In one competition there were 64 million votes caste to elect a new American Idol. This is more votes than any American President has ever received.  The charge was roughly a dollar per entry and therefore, it created quite a large revenue for those who created the carrier.

Basically, the way the system works is that a carrier has to be paid for to a phone company.  The price is set by the content provider.  The group or person requesting the carrier has to apply to have the price set by a regulatory board, which limits the possibility of fraud.  This limiting is done by constraining the number of texts an individual can get.  Eberhardt noted that Flash Lite can build icons for these texts and that SMS is great for getting the use of Flash out, but faulty at the same time.

He then went on to discuss what exactly Flash Lite is and how it can be used.  Essentially it is a scaled down version of the Flash Player, which is designed to run on devices with slow processors and limited memory.

Flash Lite 1.0 compressed information and it was released in 1999.  At this stage it didn’t support even actionscript 1.0.  There was no http access and one couldn’t load external files, such as jpg’s or xml.

Flash Lite 1.1 still used a Flash 4 code base, but introduced the use of http access.  Unfortunately though, at this stage it failed to perform well and wasn’t aware of the fact that it was being utilized for mobile technology.

Flash Lite 2.0 was introduced in 2006 and the video playback device was made specific.  It had the ability to support shared objects, such as cookies and its system capabilities were enhanced.  It supported XML Processing.  One could update information based on code used from actionscript 2.0.  Currently, only a few Nokia phones support Flash Lite 2.0 and none are pre-installed, so you have to add them in after purchasing your mobile phone, which cost about 10$.  Now, it’s apparently free.

Flash Lite 2.1 was just recently released.  It’s available through Verizon, but only to customers in the United States.

 James Eberhardt seems to think that Flash is the most promising program to revolutionize the mobile industry.  He champions Flash because it’s easy to make interfaces with Flash.  Also, many Flash designers already work with it on websites that are used for desktops.  Historically, the competition of Java vs. Flash on desktop browsers was won by Flash in 1996-98.  He also noted that it will gain popularity as the speeds go up and the prices go down.  He estimates that it will take at least 2 years for Flash to have a noticeable affect on mobile technology.

Some relative links are:

http://www.marblemedia.com/

http://www.shortsinmotion.com/

http://www.adobe.com/mobile/

http://blogs.forum.nokia.com/view_entry.html?id=220

http://www.flashmobilegroup.org/

http://www.flashmobilegroup.org/?page_id=82

http://anina.typepad.com/anina/2006/02/3gsm_flash_lite.html

 

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