Adobe Open Screen: Will Apple make their own Flash Player for the iPhone?

Adobe recently announced the ‘Open Screen‘ initiative which further opens up the SWF format along with the FLV / F4V video specifications along with . The Open Screen FAQ explains the core deal:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast? protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees ? making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

The FAQ also explains why Adobe is opening up these specifications:

Publication of an unrestricted SWF file format has long been requested by the Adobe Flash developer community. The longstanding publication of the SWF specification has fostered a vibrant ecosystem of companies and developers who create experiences with Adobe Flash technology and by removing the SWF licensing restrictions we are allowing that growing ecosystem to use the file format for any purpose, including the ability to playback SWF content

Additionally, Adobe intends to make Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free, starting with the next major releases for devices, along with publishing the device porting layer APIs. As a result of these moves, OEMs, software developers, and content owners will be able to deliver content and applications built with Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR technologies without concerns about device restrictions. By removing the licensing cost and restrictions, as well as opening up the protocols and porting layer, Adobe is making it easier for developers and partners to deliver more engaging experiences to more of their customers, and ensuring that audiences can engage with content no matter what device or medium they use.

So, with that background detail out of the way I’ll get onto my main question:

Will Apple get involved in the Open Screen project and provide support for Flash, or at least Flash video, on the iPhone / iPod Touch?

Steve Jobs was recently asked about Flash support on the iPhone by saying ?there?s this missing product in the middle?. What he was referring to is that you’ve got the full Flash Player which is very processor intensive and best suited for desktop PCs and laptops and then you’ve got the streamlined Flash Lite intended for mobile devices. Steve Jobs’ opinion is that the full version is too intense for the iPhone whilst Flash Lite lacks a lot of important functionality.

Could Apple provide at least some form of Flash support on the iPhone / iPod Touch by getting involved in Adobe’s Open Screen initiative and implementing only the parts they wish to have for Flash playback but all within the confines of the Quicktime framework itself I can see how this could fit in on regular Mac OSX as well as on the iPhone / iPod Touch too. I think it presents a really interesting possibility.

I have another reservation about Apple’s willingness to support Flash though, perhaps it’s not in Apple’s interest to further the spread of Adobe’s Flash platform? Apple certainly don’t intend to allow companies to develop runtime environments of their own for use on the iPhone / iPod Touch as the terms of the iPhone SDK specifically state:

"No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple?s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s)…"

So, that certainly seems to close the door for Java, Flash, Silverlight, etc, etc. Despite this possible reason I still think it is possible that Apple could provide native support for Flash video playback, at the very least, on the iPhone / iPod Touch.

~Rick

MWSF 2008: Why is Apple charging for iPod Touch application updates?

Well Macworld San Francisco was upon us again, as usual Apple didn’t disappoint in delivering some cool things.

MacBook Air, iTunes video rentals, Apple TV V2, Time Capsule WIFI backup drive to name a few. There was also an update for applications for the iPhone and new applications for the iPod Touch. The update for the iPod Touch brings Mail, Weather, Maps, Notes and Stocks apps to iPod Touch users, however there was a slight sting in the tail for existing iPod Touch users as the update will cost you £12.99 / $20!!! Ouch.

As annoying as this is (especially as these can be had for free if you jailbreak your iPod Touch!) I’m wondering if this is not just a matter of accounting requirements on Apple’s part?

A while back Apple introduced new MacBook Pros which had support for the new 802.11n WiFi networking but which wasn’t enabled to begin with. Apple then brought out new Airport Extreme base stations which supported 802.11n, anyone who had one of the new MacBook Pros had to pay a small fee for a bit of software to enable this functionality. I wonder if the upgrade charge for the iPod Touch applications is down to the same GAAP accounting policy that was at the heart of the 802.11N WiFi enabler? It seems odd to charge existing users for this but give it free to new purchasers otherwise.

As far as the iPhone app updates are concerned they are free as the iPhone purchases are accounted in a subscription method so these kind of updates can be provided free of charge. So, good news for iPhone users but slightly annoying for people like me who have an iPod Touch!

The ‘Iphone looking Mp4 player’

I just got a bit if junk email with a Word document attached showing a Taiwanese rip-off of the iPhone. It’s not a Phone but is an MP4 player, or in the words of the email, it is an "Iphone looking Mp4 player"! Basically the email was looking for me to place a bulk order of a minimum 1000!

I’d read on the web the other day about a Chinese company working on creating a rip off of the iPhone but obviously the photocopiers have been hard at work! Interesting to see what Apple Legal department make of this!

The email:

Email about "Iphone looking Mp4 player"

"Iphone looking Mp4 player" Images

Picture of "Iphone looking Mp4 player"

Various angles of "Iphone looking Mp4 player"

"Iphone looking Mp4 player" Specifications

The email lists the specifications as:

CY?IP4 Iphone looking Mp4 player

  • Real touch screen mp4
  • Iphone looking
  • 2.8-inch real touch screen mp4 player2>Multi music formats as MP3, WMA and WAV, good timber and real audio frequency display
  • MPEG-4(AVI) video format play, full-screen play display
  • two earphones;
  • Built-in hi-fi 8 Ohm speaker
  • Support card-inserting function: MINI SD card, 128M/256M/512M/1GB/2GB/4GB
  • High-definition JPEG picture browse function
  • Digital record, A-B replay function
  • Energy-saving setting, brightness adjustable, customerized power off time
  • Good timber, support 3D EQ surrounding effect, customerized EQ
  • Support multi languages
  • High Speed USB2.0 port
  • Listen to music while reading E-book, with bookmark function
  • Listen to music while playing games
  • FM radio
  • 128MB/256MB/512MB/1GB/2G
  • User?s Manual, earphone, CD drive
  • Dimension: 85X21X16 mm (W*H*D

Crazy!

~Rick

Nokia N95, more thoughts, token iPhone reference ;)

Well, I’ve had a week or so to play around with my Nokia N95 now although I haven’t really made use of the music or video playing aspect of it other than to record a little bit of video myself. But here’s a few more thoughts about my experience with it so far.

Get a case

On my old Nokia N80 I used to find it sometimes slid open whilst in my pocket, although I don’t think I ever called anyone by accident fortunately. But with the N95 sliding open both upwards and downwards I find this happens way more easily. I’m going to buy myself another Crumpler PP90 neoprene case to, hopefully, keep it from opening up. On the plus side though with the N95, it will auto-lock itself whether it has been slid open or not if the keys are not touched. So if it does get unlocked accidentally it will at least lock itself again.

Use the camera in good lighting

Despite the fact that there is a 5 megapixel camera in the N95 I’ve found that it still likes reasonably light environments to take good shots. Although a couple of test photos and video that I shot at home definitely performed better than my N80 would have done, so there is an improvement there and a lot closer to performing like a regular digital still camera worth it’s salt would do. You do need to give the autofocus / image stabilising time to kick in before you can take a shot so it’s not great if you need a snap in a hurry. I also like that there is a lense cover so you can stop dust getting into it, although I keep forgetting to close it!

Here’s a couple of sample shots, one taken with my N95 and one with my N80 for comparison.

Photo taken with Nokia N95
Picture taken with Nokia N95 – Click image to view full size image


Photo taken with Nokia N80
Picture taken with Nokia N80 – Click image to view full size image


WIFI Connection much easier to use

Connecting to wifi with the N95 is much easier than the N80, using the N80 you could browse for open WIFI networks using Connection Manager (Connect->Conn. mgr->Availab. WLAN) but when you tried to use ‘Options->Define access point it basically redirected you to go into ‘Connection Settings’ and do it there instead. A total wild goose chase and very unuser-friendly. I don’t know if that is just on the Orange firmware or not, maybe that works for some people?

On the N95 you can simply click browse for a WIFI network and simply select and join it by providing the appropriate password etc. Much better.

It’s available in the UK, unlike the iPhone

Unlike an iPhone you can get it here and now in the UK! I really don’t intend to compare the N95 with Apple’s iPhone as I don’t think it’s right to compare them feature by feature. Also the fact that I don’t have an iPhone means I can personally do it! My friend Alyn in Toronto has gotten his hands on one though (and has managed to activate it!), Alyn has written a pretty good overview of his experiences with it so far, minus the phone calling part, although he’s going to test that out on a visit to the US very soon.

I got Alyn to send over a couple of photos of it with Suburbia in the browser just so I could see he wasn’t faking it ;)

Suburbia.org.uk on the iPhone!

Suburbia.org.uk portrait mode in Safari on iPhone

I also got Alyn to send over a picture of it next to some of his other devices just for size comparison.

Dell Axim, iPhone, 5G iPod, Motorola phone
Left to right: Dell Axim 51v, Apple iPhone, 5G iPod with video and Motorola L7 SLVR

That’s all for now, I will probably write some more about the N95, I still need to properly put the video camera through it’s paces and see how the claims of DVD quality footage live up.

~Rick

Apple publishes ‘Optimizing Web Applications and Content for iPhone’

Apple published Guidelines for developing web content for the iPhone over at http://developer.apple.com/iphone/. It’s good to see a focus on standards based development being encouraged there, it makes sense given that the Safari browser on the iPhone has great support for XHTML and CSS, particularly CSS 3 properties – of which the iPhone makes particular use of, more of that in a moment.

Quick overview of the Guidelines…

The guidelines are split into several sections:

  • Understand User-iPhone Interaction
  • Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices
  • Integrate with Phone, Mail, and Maps
  • Optimize for Page Readability
  • Ensure a Great Audio and Video Experience
  • Know What Safari Supports on iPhone
  • Connect With Web Developers

Understand User-iPhone Interaction

This section introduces you to the whole concept of interacting with the iPhone, mainly that the input device is not a mouse but your hand so it’s not as precise as a mouse so web interfaces for the iPhone need larger click targets to interact with. As has been pointed out on various blogs there is no copy and paste, but there is also no drag and drop or text selection either so this is another factor to keep in mind.

Safari on iPhone doesn’t have windows that can be moved around or have scroll bars like a conventional browser, content is resized intelligently to fit the viewing area, it is recommended to avoid wide blocks of text. Double-tapping is used to zoom in to content.

Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices

This section really reinforces the use of web standards for designing pages for the iPhone. Makes the point that Safari on iPhone uses a ‘real’ browser in that it doesn’t use stylesheets targeted towards handheld devices, it’s intended to give a rich browsing experience by supporting HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, CSS 2.1, partial CSS 3.xx, JavaScript 1.4, DOM support, AJAX, XMLHTTPRequest.

It encourages the use of separate HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as using valid HTML, and also optimised images and script content to keep sites running smoothly.

Apple published Guidelines for developing web content for the iPhone over at http://developer.apple.com/iphone/. It’s good to see a focus on standards based development being encouraged there, it makes sense given that the Safari browser on the iPhone has great support for XHTML and CSS, particularly CSS 3 properties – of which the iPhone makes particular use of, more of that in a moment.

Quick overview of the Guidelines…

The guidelines are split into several sections:

  • Understand User-iPhone Interaction
  • Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices
  • Integrate with Phone, Mail, and Maps
  • Optimize for Page Readability
  • Ensure a Great Audio and Video Experience
  • Know What Safari Supports on iPhone
  • Connect With Web Developers

Understand User-iPhone Interaction

This section introduces you to the whole concept of interacting with the iPhone, mainly that the input device is not a mouse but your hand so it’s not as precise as a mouse so web interfaces for the iPhone need larger click targets to interact with. As has been pointed out on various blogs there is no copy and paste, but there is also no drag and drop or text selection either so this is another factor to keep in mind.

Safari on iPhone doesn’t have windows that can be moved around or have scroll bars like a conventional browser, content is resized intelligently to fit the viewing area, it is recommended to avoid wide blocks of text. Double-tapping is used to zoom in to content.

Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices

This section really reinforces the use of web standards for designing pages for the iPhone. Makes the point that Safari on iPhone uses a ‘real’ browser in that it doesn’t use stylesheets targeted towards handheld devices, it’s intended to give a rich browsing experience by supporting HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, CSS 2.1, partial CSS 3.xx, JavaScript 1.4, DOM support, AJAX, XMLHTTPRequest.

It encourages the use of separate HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as using valid HTML, and also optimised images and script content to keep sites running smoothly.

Integrate with Phone, Mail, and Maps

This section starts to get to more of the iPhone specific code examples that hook into the dedicated apps on the iPhone. You can click on Telephone numbers in Safari and the number will be automatically dialled, Safari will automatically convert numbers that look like phone numbers into telephone links. However you can format a telephone link on purpose:

<a href="tel:1-408-555-5555">1-408-555-5555</a>

Email links are in the standard format and open up Mail in order to send an email., links to Google maps take the standard link format also but these are opened up into the dedicated Google Maps application on the phone. I believe that links to YouTube movies do something similar but there is no mention of this in this section.

Optimize for Page Readability

This section gets more interesting and links back to my initial mention of CSS 3 properties. If you want to provide a particular window size for a page to be viewed on the iPhone you can set an iPhone specific stylesheet by using a CSS 3 media query like so:

<link media="only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)"
href="iPhone.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" />

There are more guidelines for laying content out for the iPhone viewport such as a recommended width of 320px so that the layout doesn’t change between portrait and landscape modes. It also details some webkit specific CSS properties to help control text sizing. Image formats supported are JPG, PNG, GIF and TIFF.

Ensure a Great Audio and Video Experience

Formats and bitrate advice is provided here to help optimise video for WIFI and EDGE network capacities. Maximum video dimensions of 480 x 360px are recommended. Formats supported are H.264, MPEG-4, AAC-LC, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .3gp file format, video or audio that can play on an iPod.

There is advice for the server side of providing audio and video for use on the iPhone too, interestingly the RTSP protocol is not supported but apparently only video via HTTP streaming.

Know What Safari Supports on iPhone

This set of guidelines covers the resource capacity of Safari on the iPhone. Downloaded resources such as CSS, HTML, Javascript, images or other non-streamed media must be less than 10Mb. Javascript execution is limited to 5 seconds before it times out, this will really mean people having to review their use of the various javascript libraries available and make sure that only the bare essentials are present. Interesting to see how Adobe’s Spry library stands up on the iPhone.

Other information covers support for files including the various mime types, PDF is supported but not (as has been widely covered on various blogs!) Flash or Java. I think various browser testing scripts for detecting Flash will need to be updated to factor in the iPhone’s lack of flash support. I wonder how long it will be before we see Flash on the iPhone? It surely must be coming, seems like a missing piece of a puzzle to me? It also covers the Security support of Safari such as SSL and RSA.

Connect With Web Developers

It ends with some useful web development links including W3C, WHAT-WG and Web Kit project site.

There’s a real push throughout about the fact that web standards and associated best practices are an integral part of creating successful sites that work well on the iPhone safari browser.

When I’ve got a moment I’ll try out a the iPhone specific code, especially now that my friend Alyn seems to have successfully gotten his iPhone activated, more about that on his blog I’m sure.

~Rick

Update on the ‘Four Mysteries of the Universe…’

Back in April I wrote a post entitled "Four mysteries of the Universe…" where I pondered over a few unanswered questions:

  1. Adobe’s European pricing for the CS3 suite
  2. Availability of AVCHD capable video editing software
  3. When are Apple finally going to ditch the really old Mac OSX 10.2-ish looking aqua pin-stripe header / main navigation graphics from their website
  4. Will there ever be a new version of Director released by Adobe?

Well, interestingly 3 out of those 4 questions have been answered! The only one outstanding is #1 – Adobe’s European pricing for the CS3 suite. I’ve yet to hear a better answer than exchange rate differences or pricing structures in global locales. On the plus side though Adobe’s profits are up 24%! ;)

Strike 2: AVCHD editing software

#2 mystery was solved when Sony finally brought out a new version of their Sony Vegas video editing software to allow those who bought their HDR-SR1 six months to edit their HD video footage!

Strike 3: Updated Apple.com website

#3 mystery was partially solved last week when Apple updated their website and got rid of the aqua pin-stripe navigation graphics. Although I have to say partially solved as the UK site has yet to be updated. I don’t really understand why the UK lags behind on offerings by Apple, when new products are announced they never appear until a few hours later than the US site. Don’t get me started on the unavailability of TV shows and Movies in iTunes, or maybe the iPhone but I’m not so bothered about that as it’s only just coming out in the US, but TV shows and movies have been available in the US for about 2 years now!

Strike 4: A new version of Director from Adobe

#4 mystery was solved after I’d been pestering a few people at Adobe for an answer to whether there would be a new version of Director coming anytime soon. I got an email reply from someone who pointed me to the Director FAQ page which states, albeit slightly uncommittedly:

Adobe has not published an official time frame for the next release of Director and generally does not disclose details of new releases more than 30 days before a product is expected to ship. However, our current planning assumption is that the next major release of Director will be in the second half of 2007.

Unfortunately I was too late to get on the Beta testing programme for Director, I would have loved to have had an opportunity to help test the next version of Director.

I’m glad it’s an app that’s going to continue to be developed although I do feel there is a big challenge being presented by the whole AIR (formerly Apollo) project and advances in Flash like PaperVision3D.

I’m a bit concerned that the lack of real announcements about this has caused many to consider Director dead in the water, I look forward to there being a public beta on Adobe Labs!

Other news…

Apple just announced updated information about the iPhone, namely that it will have longer than expected battery life and an ‘optical quality glass screen’ rather than plastic. The iPhone’s battery will provide:

  • 8 hours of talk time
  • 6 hours of Internet use
  • 7 hours of video playback
  • 24 hours of audio playback
  • 250 hours – more than 10 days of standby time.

Oh, and the Olympics 2012 logo still sucks! Also Hi to students from New College, Pontefract, thanks for your ‘insightful’ comments on my ‘Historical overview of Olympic logos’ article ;)

~Rick