In my continuing new love-affair with all things Macromedia, I just read on Mike Kriser's site about FlashCast. I had heard about it last week during all the DemoMobile news, but I hadn't really paid attention to what it was: FlashCast is to Mobile Flash, what the BREW Distribution System is to BREW based apps. Oh, wow! That's cool! What's even cooler is this CNet Video demoing FlashCast on a Nokia 3650! Yeah! When the hell do we get the damn runtime for our phones?!?
To explain a bit more, one of the things that's very interesting about BREW is that it is part of an entire infrastucture that's sold to carriers to manage the distribution and sale of BREW-based applications. Unlike J2ME, you have to pay licensing fees to develop for the BREW platform which allows you to sign the BREW apps and charge for them. The entire BDS manages the process from when the client choose an app, to downloading over the air, to verifying installation and then charging the clients bill for the app. From what I understand, BREW can even charge *per use* of the app if that's how it's meant to be used.
J2ME in comparison is completely open - and thus has much more popularity, obviously. However, because the infrastructure isn't there, there's a lot of problems right now finding outlets to sell your application. There's no clear path from development to the customer in J2ME. Sun just bought a company called Pixo to address this need, but I haven't heard much since then. There are other "aggregators" out there as well, and many carriers are also getting in the act, but it's not centralized or organized like it is in the BREW system.
That brings up a question in my mind, actually. BREW 2.0 now has a full J2ME stack built on top of the underlying BREW APIs (BREW is basically a phone OS, though a bit more lightweight). Can J2ME apps that are meant to run on BREW phones take part in the BDS? I'm not sure. I'll have to look it up.
So anyways, I think it's really interesting that Macromedia has learned from Sun's mistakes on this. And it *is* a big mistake on Sun's part not to have provided an infrastructure from stage one. Though I don't like the idea of having to pay to develop for a platform - BREW, Mophun, Danger, etc. - Qualcomm gets 10% of the revenues generated this way and it's a *real* opportunity. Sun could've had an open platform, yet still provided a better infrastructure for distribution in my opinion.
I am a big believer in mobile Flash ("Flash Lite"). I think that the sort of apps you can develop with that technology will be *very* visually compelling and a level of effort easier to develop than the equivalent using J2ME. In the video above, Macromedia demonstrates a news aggregator if you can believe it. That rocks. I mean, how much does that show that they *get it*?
I can't seem to find any more info about the service than what was said in the video and by Mike's blog. Will the .swf "apps" have to be signed? Do you have to pay Macromedia to get your apps part of the system? Will there be a generic Flash player for mobiles like the 3650, or will it only be available as part of the full FlashCast system? Will there be a Palm player? Who's doing the aggregating, Macromedia or the carriers? Where do I sign up? When is it going to be launched? Where's more info?!?!
Anyways, cool stuff coming soon! Can't wait to play!