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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is Flash for cellphones in the US going to be a sure thing?

I love flash. The more devices it can be incorporated into, the better. When I learned last year of the potential of Flashlite 2.0 to deliver rich flash content to a phone interface, it souned promising. Then Verizon announced that they would be the first US network to enable a large portion if their phones to play flash content seamlessly. They were able to do so using BREW technology, which enables the consumer to use flash content seamlessly.

So far so good right? We flash guys should be jumping all over this shouldn't we? Not exactly. My two year contract was up with Verizon, hence I was able to get a new phone. I chose the Motorola KRZR, which has the ability to play FL 2.1 content. As I awaited the shipment of this phone with excitement over the ability to create flash content for it, I only then saw what the real deal is.

Developing FL content for Verizon phones requires an agreement between you, Verizon, and Qualcomm, the owner of BREW technology. Ok... but that complicated system of licensing means you will need to fork over $400 for the privelage.

Adobe, Verizon, and Qualcomm are missing the point entirely here. By charging large fees just for the ability of developers to create and test content on their phones, they are essentially cutting off vital channels of creativity. Think about it. If we, who worked our way up the creative ladder would've had to pay $400 to test flash content on our PC's, then it is highly likely that many of us would have never made it that far. Less people who use a product with enthusiasm means less people who will ultimately buy your program, and subsequently contribute to the community that your company owes it's existence to.

This is just one small part of a bigger picture in which developers, graphic designers, and even consumers are nickled and dimed to death for anything that they happen to use or watch on their mobile devices. If the same approach was used for TV's, Radios, and so on, there would have not been the same level of success.

I can understand the seemingly irresistible urge for companies to want to 'cash in' on what could potentially become as lucrative as the web, which as we all saw created untold billions for some and entire industries for others. But those billions came from providing a environment where content, creation, marketing, and usage was entirely open and the costs for doing so incredibly cheap. The same iss not being done for wireless services and this is why the U.S. cellphone market is so far behind those in Europe and Asia. It will continue to be as such until a better approach is taken.

I for one will not be forking over $400 for a license to develop. I'm taking my money and buying a Nokia N series so I can test my content until a US network offers flash content testing capabilities free of charge.

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