Viewing websites on Mobile Devices

The other day I was watching TV and saw a commercial for a nation wide real estate company. They were showing search results of properties on a mobile phone. It wasn’t simple text but had nice images of the properties in a nice format. I wanted to research the status of this technology today. What technologies do we have today to deliver content to mobile devices? I’m going to discuss the Flash Lite plug-in by Adobe since I am a Flash/Flex developer. There are other technologies that developers use like Java’s JME technology which I won’t discuss here since Flash is a very comparable format. Flash Lite is an optimized version of the Flash Player for mobile devices and has shipped on more than one billion devices worldwide. As of 2008, 40% of all new mobile devices shipped with Flash Lite. That number will increase dramatically – which I will discuss shortly.

Mobile devices is a very large growing market. They basically become a “Third Screen” to most users today and many companies are developing sites to cater to this audience. Mobile devices are not just for phone calls anymore. They are everywhere, many people have more than one and more people are getting them. Texting is the most common use (if you have teenagers you know this already), but it is becoming more of a peer-peer content sharing device, infotainment, and is also becoming the jukebox, radio, TV and gaming device. Now that network speeds are increasing, we are using our mobile devices for current news, stocks, scores, weather and email.

The downside to this technology is there is little standardization. It’s comparable to the standardization to the personal computer of 10 years ago. It’s a consistently evolving platform. The mobile device has limited horsepower – the CPU is comparable to early personal computers and has limited memory. They have small screens, limited size, colors and limited content. Mobile devices have been a somewhat closed system or some have called a “Walled Garden”. The carrier is basically the gate keeper but other parties are now getting involved like device manufactures. We are seeing the carrier’s concern over the network stability, security and the possibility of a negative experience of an end user and what it can do to their brand has motivated the stock holders to look for some sort of standardization.

So how do we get around this “Walled Garden”? There is new technique emerging called “Side Loading” which is basically a way to download and transfer content to a mobile device. That leads us to the Flash Lite player. Now you can develop in one program and deliver to many platforms. It has rich multimedia features, and a great development language. It has a small footprint – player size is small (below 1 MB) and the memory usage is small as well.

Looking Forward

This is the current tool set we have to get your website onto a portable device but we are beginning to see an exciting direction for the Flash Lite player. Adobe is calling this project “Open Screen Project“. Adobe stated “We are seeing basically three undeniable market trends. First we are seeing an explosion in Internet content, applications, and video. This isn’t just for personal computers but there is also a demand for mobile devices as well as television. The increased growth in number of devices and these companies are now embracing a more open model to deliver this information. The major request is the demand for a seamless experience across multiple devices. Adobe is working with various partners to deliver a consistent running environment for all these devices using the Flash player and Adobe Air applications. The key players like device manufactures, carriers, chip set vendors and the content providers are all on board. Adobe is working with Intel to deliver an optimized Flash player on Intel processors to enable web content on TV and portable devices. Adobe is also working closely with ARM to optimize the Flash player and Adobe Air for ARM powered devices. QUALCOMM released their BREW Mobile Platform SDK that integrates Flash.”

We will begin to see better standardization on all mobile devices and it appears that Adobe’s Flash Lite will lead the way.

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