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Hard Play – No Flash on the iPhone – yet…

October 6th, 2009 9 comments

Last night Adobe announced Flash Player 10.1, which will support a lot of devices including Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and WebOS (you can find more details in the official press release).
Sounds cool except of course … there is no iPhone there?

I am wondering why that is and what is Apple’s strategy? Everywhere I go people ask me, When will you guys be releasing Flash for iPhone? Why are you not releasing Flash for iPhone? And I don’t know what to tell you, but from what it seems Adobe is going for every smart phone out there. I mean there has been only fingerpointing so far: Apple saying Flash is not good enough, Adobe saying it is and now is delivering it for every other smart-phone.

Now I am wondering what Apple’s strategy is about that. I mean currently let’s face it: iPhone is by far the only significant smart phone out there with a design that was really innovative not only from the hardware point of view. The whole iPhone business ecosystem was way far ahead anything any competitor had put up forward.

But once Apple “got it right” now the spell is broken. Now, the entire industry not only knows what customers want, they are pressured to deliver it fast if they want to still be in this business 5-10 years from now. I think the whole game will change now into a long slog, a down in the trenches fight between Apple and the other big phone hardware manufacturers and telecom operators. Why do I think it will be a long slog? Well Apple did a big blow in the phone market with iPhone but I don’t think they will get 30% of the smart phones market very soon. And even if they get it I doubt that Apple will get 80% of the mobile phone market. And I don’t think they want it. Apple’s strategy is to get the most profitable 10-20% segment of the market, after that the profitability drops and it doesn’t look that nice.

Now back to the trenches. By leaving Flash out of the iPhone, Apple is keeping iPhone out of Flash and it’s betting on its own API to deliver applications and RIAs (I doubt they will adopt Silverlight :) ). With Flash and Silverlight pushing hard for all other smart-phones (which by the way are getting cooler and cooler) I expect that pretty soon they will get to be quite popular. So if Apple insists on using its own API, it will make application development for their platform expensive. If you have the coolest phone put out there, this makes perfect sense. But if the other phone manufacturers get their act together they will soon bridge that gap. With Flash, and soon AIR, support they will be able to reuse development skills and even running code to get people to make applications for their platforms. By making development more expensive on iPone than for the other platforms, Apple will position iPhone as a niche product. This clearly is not a mainstream strategy and playing the niche market with iPhone is a tricky strategy. And with Flash Player 10.1 on all the other phones, it kinda makes iPhone look a little strange because you can’t play video on it.

I wonder what Apple’s move or statement will be especially now that you will be able to compile Flash applications to get them run as native apps on the iPhone.

 

 

Categories: ria, thinking Tags:

Playing with Custom Layout in Flex 4

May 29th, 2009 9 comments

gumboListAs Flex 4 SDK is almost in it’s Beta state I took a look at his features and what impressed me the most was how the presentation is decoupled from the behavior. I remember a presentation around Max 2007 when Ely Greenfield, the principal scientist for Flex SDK, showed a sneak peek on how this will make a lot of skinning things a lot simpler. For example, it’s simple to make a list look … let’s say to make it look like the Fan effect that Mac users love so much :)

I found this quite easy to implement using Flex 4. Because the list can be skinned in MXML it’s so easy to program the skin and stay in MXML for the most part. The only thing that I actually needed to program was how the elements are laid out.

The basic List skin looks like this:

<s:states>
    <s:State name="normal"/>
    <s:State name="hover"/>
    <s:State name="disabled"/>
</s:states>

<fx:Metadata>[HostComponent("spark.components.List")]</fx:Metadata>
<s:DataGroup itemRenderer="components.RepeatedItem1"
        clipAndEnableScrolling="true"  id="dataGroup"
        rollOver="currentState='hover'">
    <s:layout>
        <components:LargeCircleLayout id="myLayout" radius="1400"
            stepAngle="0" stepAngle.hover="3.5"/>
    </s:layout>
</s:DataGroup> 

Notice that it’s nothing but a DataGroup that has a layout. I’ve also added the Hover state to be able to open the list when you hover over it.

To add the nice effect it’s just a matter of animating one layout property:

<s:transitions>
    <s:Transition autoReverse="true">
        <s:Animate target="{myLayout}" duration="200">
            <s:SimpleMotionPath property="stepAngle"/>
        </s:Animate>
    </s:Transition>
</s:transitions>

You can take a look at the source code here and watch the list here.

Categories: flex, ria, tips & tricks Tags:

Words are not enough – On how experience changes the way we use the Internet

January 26th, 2009 2 comments

Every once in a while I think we all go into this ‘future prediction’ mode. So I’ve philosophized a little over the weekend about … well about the future of the Internet and how this will shape our society. If you remember back in the 90s when the Internet craze began a lot of voices predicted that printed stuff would go away. Well, not only did the book industry not go away but book sales reportedly grew year over year both by volume and in value. It was not stellar growth, around 10%, but it was definitely not a retraction. It’s true that lately daily newspapers have started feeling squeezed by electronic news delivery but glossy magazines are still by far our reading preference when sitting in our ‘private moments’. However it is also true that the amount of words delivered in the electronic format has grown at an impossible pace. In only 20-30 years this has transformed us from information hungry into information overloaded (by the way, we still have problems adapting our brains to this).

But not only the information is now easily available, an increase in computing power helped us make better models and thus solve more complex problems. And with solution to these complex problems, guess what, even more complex problems emerged and a new level of complexity came into our life. But hey, we had the Internet so we started to use it not only to deliver information but to deliver applications. Now people not only exchange information using email but also use shared calendars over the web to plan and keep track of group activities (and these are only two of the most common examples).

As information exchange and complexity grow well over our brains’ capacity to deal with, we built applications that help us manage that. But of course, for these applications to be helpful, they need to require less effort to learn and use than to manage the underlying complexity directly. In other words they need to be intuitive. Or better, they need to match our expectation. But what if these expectations are not coded into words? What if these expectations are about how the computer behaves? Up until now, the engineering of information (the driver of the Internet) was a very … engineering occupation. We’ve known for ages how to codify information with words, also from ages we codified the words into writing. Now we digitized everything and spread it using Internet. We are very good with words and almost all the experience we had now with information and information management was mostly word-related (with a little help from the typography). But now a new beast come into play. With the new runtimes like the DHTML engine in browsers (people call it AJAX), Flash, or Silverlight we activate a new set of awareness and thus create a new kind of expectation: the cinematic expectation.

As humanity we have a long history and lots of experience with words and how to codify information in words. We also know how to codify spatial information although is a harder task: architecture and graphics are really hard but we have a lot of experience here also. But the democratization of the application will demand yet another skill: cinematic. And this is one of the newest skill and more difficult to get right: theatrical experience is hard and making movies is even harder.

One of the difficulties that architecture and movies share in common is the difficulty of codifying their language. This comes from the fact that a lot of their language can’t be expressed in words. That’s why they’re called arts, no?

Now spatial representation, sounds, and cinematic presentation is starting to get mainstream as applications get into our everyday life. Suddenly the computing industry, where a bunch of engineers like me where dealing with problems that had a decent formalism to be communicated (words, mathematical language, etc.), are faced now with problems that require more and more artistic stuff. And the more you (well it’s usually a team) get all these right the more efficient the application will be. What we generically call usability is now a melange of words, script, cinematic … even sound. And this is going mainstream. And we don’t have a decent codification for a lot of this stuff. Smells like making Rich Internet Application is becoming more an art than an science. And because good applications have proved valuable in this highly complex world this means that businesses will need to adapt to create and consume this kind of art. 

Just as books and a lot of printed press have not been wiped away by the Internet, I think the new use of the Internet to deliver applications will not challenge the current way we use it: to distribute information or ‘The Know What’. I can however state that we will now start to use the Internet to distribute one of the most difficult piece of knowledge to distribute so far: The Know How.  We clearly see the benefit in this but we have barely glimpsed the challenges that lie ahead.

So I say to myself: What a wonderful world … for a good  Information Architect or a good Interactive Designer !

Categories: ria, thinking Tags: