Microsoft licenses Flash Lite for mobile phones (yay or yawn?)
As a Flash developer, I'm happy whenever anyone licenses anything Flash for any purpose whatsoever. It strengthens a platform that I love developing for. However, the news that Microsoft has licensed Flash Lite for its Windows Mobile phones doesn't excite me too greatly.
Flash Lite definitely has its place on mobile phones but that place is not to play back web-based Flash content. Flash Lite plays back Flash Lite content specifically created for phones and other devices like the Chumby. The best uses of it that I've seen are to build interface elements and other apps that integrate into the phone's operating system. Flash Lite cuts down development and testing time (and thus costs and time-to-market) considerably for such use cases.
What would excite me far more would have been an announcement that a mobile phone supported the full version of the Flash Player. There are, of course, optimization issues to consider. Steve Jobs mentioned that the iPhone cannot run the full version of the latest Flash Player. He also spoke about how Flash Lite is too light. As I mentioned previously, he's spot on.
What we need is a Flash Player for mobile phones that can play back existing Flash content on the web.
Phone and mobile device processors are increasing in speed to the point where I can run Flex sites on my Nokia N800 which supports the full Flash 9 Player.
Next step: Flash 9 (10?) on a phone?
I don't see Flash Lite going away as it has important uses in creating UIs for phone OSes and native apps but don't confuse the presence of Flash Lite on a phone with Flash support. I understand Flash support as the ability to play back existing Flash content on the web. As far as I know, no phone currently does this.
The iPhone created the expectation that mobile devices should be able to faithfully display the web. That's an expectation that Apple can only half meet at the moment (and they're the closest ones to meeting it at all.) As such, a mobile Flash Player that rendered existing content would be a game changer. I can only wonder if Apple is working on such a third option.
I also wonder if this is the goal that Microsoft is aiming for with mobile Silverlight? If mobile Silverlight can render existing web Silverlight content then it will have a technical leg up on Flash in the mobile arena. On the flip side, there isn't really that much Silverlight content on the web today to start with (this is a situation that I know Microsoft is pushing very hard to change).
To conclude, I applaud Microsoft's adoption of Flash Lite in its Windows Mobile phones and look forward to seeing how they implement and use it. I'm not as excited about this development, however, as I would have been by the announcement of web Flash content support by a mobile device. That would truly be an exciting turning point for mobile Flash.