Flash Lite is not WICD – But it should be!


Since I blog a lot about next generation mobile browser applications, a common question I get is: What about Flash Lite ?

Well .. What about it – I say? It’s specific to a company(Adobe) and in my view, that will always be it’s limitation.(i.e. not an Open Standard!)

But more seriously, Flash has got a lot of traction on the Web. Thus, there is reason to believe that Flash Lite may also do well on Mobile devices.

Besides, Adobe is getting a lot of traction for Rich Internet Web Applications on the Web through products like Adobe Flex

But will Flash Lite emulate the success of Flash on the Web?

The crux of Adobe’s Flash strategy on the Web was based on giving the client for free. This led to a whole mass of developers adopting the technology. Adobe made money using developer licences.

If this strategy were mirrored on the Mobile ecosystem , the Flash Lite client would be free and developers would adopt it in significant numbers.

So, is the Flash Lite client free?

Sadly, it is not.

At the moment, Adobe’s entire strategy seems to be focussed towards devices and handsets as opposed to developers and browsers.

In other words, it is NOT the same model which made Flash so successful on the Web since the client is not free and the target ‘customer’ from Adobe’s point of view is not the developer.

So, who is Flash pitched at?

The obvious answer is: the Operator and the Device manufacturer.

This will lead to a slow and a fragmented uptake of Flash Lite (in contrast to the almost global appeal of Flash on the Web)

But in case of Flash Lite, it gets worse: Not only do the Operators and device manufactures have to install Flash(at a considerable cost), Adobe’s entire strategy seems to be pitched towards one specific Operator i.e. Verizon. This is apparent even as you see the Flash Lite site

Sadly, this may end up with the product being defined by it’s first customer

Ofcourse, there is Flash Lite as a browser plug-in – and that’s more interesting and is similar to the Web. However, the browser plug-in approach is not getting a lot of traction from both Adobe and the Web community

Is there an option?

In my view, Yes.

That option is WICD from the W3C.

The potential of WICD has been highlighted by other bloggers like CEO before and while it still has a way to go in terms of traction – it’s basic approach is a lot better.

Its also a lot cheaper, it is an Open Standard and is likely to be adopted by Operators and Device manufacturers for the same reason that they are looking into Linux as an OS now(Open and cost effective).

In my view, a better approach from Adobe would be to focus on the browser plug-in and make the client free.

This would mirror the Web strategy which made Flash so successful.

Both Adobe Flex and Flash Lite are good products. Lets hope that they become successful.

But the only way to do that in my view is by pitching to the developers.

Too many people (including developers themselves) make the mistake of over estimating the UI at the expense of critical mass.

But UI is not the critical factor as I discuss in the article Mobile Ajax: More than just a pretty face and The future is bright – the future is Three! (both of which emphasise features beyond the UI and talk about why UI is not the critical factor in the success of Mobile Applications)

What is needed is a homogeneous marketplace.

Anything that fragments the marketplace is not good.

Anything that encourages a homogeneous market is good.

Thus, the free browser plug-in is a better approach in contrast to the current strategy

Without developer support, it won’t fly and developers need a mass market to succeed.


Update – based on comments below

Hello Jag, Dalibor

Thanks for your insightful comments.


Actually, the cynic in me says that I *do* think it’s relevant, if it’s an open standard it’s more likey to be designed by a committee that results in the mess that was MIDP 1 and 2. With Flash, as a developer, I know it will work everywhere. With all but the simplest of Java apps that is rarely the case.

With all due respect, it was the Operators that screwed up Java implementations by inconsistently implementing APIs smile and thereby fragmenting Java on Mobile devices! and I agree to your comments that all but the simplest games are possible on Java.

In other words, it was not a failure of Open standards, the problem lay with Operators.

Now coming back to Flash Lite, if Operator A installs it on device B and Operator X installs it on device Y, then you see the problem immediately – a smaller target audience.

The problem is very simple

As an industry, we forget that we are working with consumer applications(which need critical mass).

You can get critical mass in one of two ways

a) The Japanese and Korean model : ‘Managed’ by a strong entity(in case of Korea – the Korean government for instance)

b) The Open Standards way!!

Thats why my emphasis on WICD

Read my book : Mobile Web 2.0

Image source: Mad Lantern