Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mobile Flash Will Make Smartphones Smarter

Adobe Systems, the developer of software for PCs and mobile phones that allows devices to create, display and interact with rich-media content, has revealed that development of its Flash Player software for mobile phones is well underway, in partnership with a growing number of hardware and software firms, including most of the leading handset manufacturers.
Read through the press releases I’ve linked to here and you’ll see that beta versions of Flash Player 10.1 are on track for release by the end of the year for the Windows Mobile and Palm webOS operating systems. Versions that will work with Symbian and Android are expected early in 2010, with BlackBerry likely to follow soon afterwards now that Research In Motion joined Adobe’s Open Screen Project at the weekend.
The aim of this initiative is to create a common media platform for mobile phones, computers and TVs, which should facilitate interoperability but, most importantly, should significantly cut development time for rich media content and applications thanks to the use of a single standard. There are now almost 50 companies involved in the project, up from 16 at its inception last year.
In turn, it will become quicker and, therefore, more cost-effective to develop a broader range of applications and content for the mobile environment – such as social networking, gaming, video and music, advertising, and location-based services, to name but a few.
Although some incompatibility hurdles will remain – particularly the issue of screen sizes and processor capacities which vary from one device to another – Juniper Research welcomes this exciting development, which will go a long way towards encouraging the usage and consumption of rich media services and, by default, should then encourage more consumers to take up smartphones.
A Juniper report published earlier this year found that around 13% of all mobile phones shipped in 2008 were smartphones. We believe that such devices will account for an increased percentage of shipments this year, despite the recession, to almost 16% of the total. By 2014, smartphones will account for more than a quarter of all new phones sold.
There is one key industry player that has yet to participate in the project, however. Apple has, so far, declined to involve itself in the project (perhaps preferring to time any such announcement for a moment that best suits its own marketing and publicity machine: its quarterly results are due on October 19th!), but with RIM – its main rival in the smartphone arena – now having signed up, it does seem inevitable.
The industry’s warm welcome to Adobe’s news also chimes with another finding in our smartphone report: the hardware race is over and, going forward, innovation and development is mostly being focused on advancing software that underpins the performance of these devices. And, as we’ve seen in our recent report on Operating Systems, increased use of ‘open’ platforms with common functionality will help keep development costs – and therefore overall handset and service costs – down.



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