Mobile Flash vs. Mobile Java

My final thought. WHEW.

Mobile Flash is coming. And just like Flash laid waste to the applets which used to adorn our web pages, it's going to do the same to many of the MIDP apps which we now use on our J2ME enabled phones.

It's just a fact. Here's the very first Mobile Flash app I've seen, just this morning, from Joi Ito's blog: FBlogReader. It's 6k, it's tiny, it's good looking, it's well branded and it works on your phone. It's perfect. And I bet you a buck it took the programmer a HELL of lot less time to develop than the equivalent Java app (especially with all the bells and whistles like drop downs and graphics).

If you read this blog regularly, I want you to think about who this is coming from... I'm the guy who told the world he hated Flash not too long ago. And I do - when it's used as an alternate to perfectly good HTML. However, there are some amazing little games and animations in Flash that are IMPOSSIBLE to reproduce using Java. I love that little Stick-figure kung-fu guy and the Ninjai animations. 100% Flash and they rule.

That's the sort of thing that Flash could allow on the mobile phone as well. Compelling, good looking, easy to develop applications and animations for mobile devices. Check out Macromedia's Mobile Flash site for more info.

Now there are lots of questions and some doubts about this, I will admit. First, unlike J2ME, it's untested as to whether it will work well on mobile devices. Secondly, I'm not sure about the API as to whether it will allow sufficient "real" programming to develop action games like Java does. And thirdly, Java is everywhere already, it'll be hard for Macromedia to "catch up".

But on the third point, I have to say that I'm confident things will change quickly because they are taking the exact "plug-in" strategy that I advocated in my last post for Mobile Java. There is already a plug in for PocketPC devices, the newest generation i-mode phones are coming with Flash pre-installed and I'm sure VERY soon, Symbian will be addressed as well (Jeremy Allaire owns a 3650, after all ;-) ).

So I think it'll be interesting to see what happens, but I have a feeling we're going to see a lot of Flash based Mobile apps as soon as the plug-ins and phones become available. Sun needs to think about this, see the writing on the wall, and start working on ways to make your Mobile Java based applications a hell of a lot more useful.


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