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Pt 1012
“Developing Flash content for mobile devices” is top of mind for many developers and tech journals at the moment. While I spend most of my time making physical things now there was a time I spent most of my time trying to make interfaces for mobile devices, this was about 9 years ago, oddly enough – using Macromedia Flash. There’s even a book I co-authored about it called… you guessed it “Flash Enabled” (Google books has it now). Pictured above, the old Microsoft dev site for Flash…

This was a long time ago.

Bookcoveroutlines
A book about making Flash for mobile devices… 2001-2002.

Img 1936
Macromedia never could get big deals with mobile carriers and OEMs needed from what I recall, it was always “almost” about to happen with a few successes here and there (Sony CLIE, but not really) – lots of project managers went in and out of the mobile devices group – it was a perpetual beta, fun for a developer. I’m not sure if it was the pricing, but I do recall one beta where the MP3 codec couldn’t ship with it because there’s a fee/license when you decode MP3s on a mobile device. Things just didn’t work out for Flash on cell phones it seemed.

I learned a lot creating interfaces for mobile devices but sadly, the book I helped write is likely still accurate since Flash may finally get to more devices soon and the considerations are mostly the same. I pulled up some old projects, most ran on Pocket PCs and Pocket PC phones (SH3, MIPS and then just ARM)…. enjoy.

Pt 1007
Unit convertor.

Pt 1008
Flash calculator.

Pt 1013
NYC subway map (with Starbucks locator!).

Pt 1010
Pitching a mobile device coffee ordering system to Starbucks (it never went beyond the pitch).

Pt 1011
Mobile device app for showing after market stocks, web connected.

Most of the apps I collected, made or wrote about never were used outside a small group – the mobile player was never part of a device – talking to companies 9 years ago about how every phone “will” be like what an iPhone is now was interesting, I’m pretty sure they thought I was bonkers.

Recently, a few people have emailed me asked what I thought about all this – I think the Flash player on devices as a front end like Chumby show it’s very possible to have an amazing interface using Flash on a mobile device with a tweaked player just for mobile devices, but I don’t think running a plug-in on a phone browser to get the same content from a desktop experience will work out. If you look at how Apple handles YouTube videos on Safari on iPods, iTouches and now iPads that’s a pretty good experience, this is just my opinion. Safari detects it and then opens up a specific experience for that video (and plays an optimized version). The Flash player for Android, whateverphones, etc works the same way (sorta) your mobile device knows something is Flash and you either open an optimized player – perhaps it doesn’t work or you get some type of cursor – clunky, but workable. Right now Adobe calls this “in browser (flash player 10.1)” and “out of browser (AIR 2)”. They have demos on their site and we’re all starting to see examples at tech conferences again.


Here’s a video from the Web 2.0 Expo of an unreleased Android tablet that can play Flash.

So back to 2010, I’m working on some iApps as well as things for Android – I don’t want something that’s “ok” on each platform – if it’s an app that runs on the device I will spend the time to optimize for that device and for everything else… if it’s a web app it will run on the web and for that I’ll spend the time to make sure it runs everywhere.

As long as the phone supports web standards it will not be a problem. Some things I am working on will be web apps, accessible from any device – and other things with be device specifics made with the SDKs for that device. I’m working on some ePub tutorials and with those, hopefully it really won’t matter, a device will just need an ePub reader, that said – it’s a little tougher than I thought to get it to work perfectly on every device and still have it look the way I want it. Publishing to an iPad is also a little tricky if you’re not an authorized publisher it seems.

Anyway – this is just what I’m going to do based on my history with Flash and mobile applications – for the folks working on apps, post your thoughts up in the comments. I figured this would be a fun look back for folks who make content for devices.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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