Saturday, March 01, 2003

Flash to be integrated into Japan's i-mode

This news may not make much noise among those not into wireless/mobile development, but I think it could be more imporant than many will realize. Macromedia announced this week that they had reached an agreement with NTT DoCoMo, Japan's dominant player in mobile/wireless, to have Flash embedded on their "i-mode" phones. Who cares? Well, Japan has led the way in mobile development, in particular because DoCoMo's dominance means that i-mode and their network/phones have been pretty much the only game in town, and therefore they didn't suffer the stratification of networks, carriers, phones, etc. that we do in the US. Things just congealed there in a way that we can't yet dream of. We can hope that things may improve here, whether or not i-mode itself ever extends much outside Japan.

So what, then? Well, my excitement is that this is a great notch in Flash's belt to become more widespread in mobile phones, even if only in Japan. And success in Japan has been a harbinger of possible moves to the rest of the world. It's not obvious, but it's not entirely unrealistic. When folks eventually realize the power that they can bring to their web apps with Flash, and further that the same skills and results created for web apps can be applied to to mobile phones, I predict there will eventually be an upswelling of interest and acceptance of the platform on other devices and networks. It will take time, but I think this is a significant announcement--and not just for Flash, nor even just current wireless developers.

Perhaps one day many current web developers will be better able to ply their trade in support of wireless apps. WAP and other HTML-based approaches have come and mostly gone--though not for entirely justifiable reasons in some respects. (As a contributor to Professional WAP, I gave that platform a shot back in 2000.) But Flash on a mobile phone: that just makes a lot of sense, and may cause Flash development to make more sense for web app developers as time, markets, consumers, etc all come together to make it a platform of interest. I could be wrong, but we shall see.

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