By Andrew Frost
Understanding the Latest Innovations In Flash – What and Where
Recently Adobe announced a number of new product releases for mobile devices and consumer electronics devices. This has lead to some confusion amongst developers as to which platform is the right one to target for them. In this blog I attempt to give a brief overview of the 4 key platforms for leveraging Flash outside the traditional desktop PC domain
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited release in the mobile industry Flash 10.1 at long last brings the benefits of desktop flash content to the mobile work. Flash 10.1 is designed for delivering rich browsing experiences on mid to high end smart devices. Designed as browser plug-in only (i.e it must run within a web browser) it enables mobile consumers to have access to exactly the same flash based content as any desktop user. In addition Flash 10.1 also comes with support for OpenGLES 2.0 which means that it can take full advantage of the latest developments in hardware acceleration and graphics performance on the latest generation of mobile chipsets. For example this means that H.264 video content can now be decoded in hardware delivering both improved rendering performance and critically reducing power consumption. Other key features that developers will be keen to exploit include Accelerometer input, which could for example be used to enhance flash based mobile games, screen orientation handling, support for multi-touch and gestures, new commands for pause/resume to conserve battery when not the player is in use and globalization support for device-specific location information.
Flash Lite 4.0
Flash Lite 4.0 is a natural evolution of Adobe’s platform for more limited mobile devices such as mobile phones designed for the mass market or for vertical market devices that also want to leverage Flash for other application or UI development. Thus it can be used as both a browser plug-in and an application / device UI framework. Flash Lite 4.0 also brings support for Flash 10 based content but is not able to support the full rage of content as is delivered with Flash 10.1. In reality between 80-85% of web content can be supported with Flash Lite 4.0. Deltas from Flash 10.1 include the lack of support for some AIR APIs, limitations due to memory/processor constraints, and no OpenGL ES support, through OpenVG 1.1 is supported, as well as a more limited range of 3D rendering options. However Flash Lite 4 does include a number of key upgrades form the previous version (3.1) including a full ActionScript 3 implementation, and Flash Video with dynamic streaming.
Stagecraft is Adobe’s platform for the digital home and is today becoming an increasingly popular platform for the development of next generation Set Top Boxes. The current release of Stagecraft 1.2 is based on the on Flash Lite 3.1 platform but future releases of Stagecraft are likely to include the full Flash 10.1 player. Amongst the key features of Stagecraft are a framework for accelerating graphics operations and video decoding and optimisations for 2D rendering accelerations (for example through DirectFB) . Typically many chipset vendors will have implemented specific Stagecraft optimisations for their specific reference platforms. Stagecraft is currently designed to be standalone application and is not integrated into a browser or the existing DVB / STB middleware.
Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) is currently designed for desktop environments and Mobile Internet Devices. AIR enables rich internet apps to run natively outside the browser using the Flash runtime engine. Adobe recently demonstrated a beta of the AIR 2.0 platform running on Android handsets at MWC2010. As chipsets become ever more powerful then it is likely that we will see AIR become more widely used in the mobile world to provide a greater set of capabilities for building Flash in to traditional mobile applications outside the browser as well as providing a platform for running Flash based content when disconnected from the network.
Hopefully this blog has provided a clear overview of the different flash options and the target usages. The above can be simply summarized as:
Flash 10.1 - Delvers a rich browsing experience for Smartdevices
Flash Lite 4.0 - Bring the benefits of Flash, for browsing or application development, to lower powered mobile devices
Stagecraft - Flash for the Digital Home – primarily the STB market.
AIR - Support for Flash based applications outside the browser.
If you would like to discuss Flash for mobile in more detail please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org