Some exciting news today with Adobe partnering up with companies across the board like Nokia, Sony Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, ARM, Intel, NBC, MTV, BBC, etc. for an initiative they call the Open Screen Project.
What the Open Screen Project attempts to address is getting a consistent runtime not just on the desktop but across to mobile and devices. Adobe has a clear solution for web with the ubiquitousness of the Flash Player, Flash Lite is getting traction with over 500 million copies shipped with mobile phones so far and AIR is bringing RIA's to the desktop.
When I initially heard about the project I was a bit skeptical thinking it was more of a marketing announcement than anything else, but there are a few important points to consider and I'll walk you through them.
The SWF specifications have always been available for people to support exporting to the file format, with the big caveat in the license agreement that you could not build your own player for SWF content.
This has changed effective today, you are now free to write your own SWF Player if you so wish to do. The concern here has always been fragmentation of 'Flash Players', but Adobe now recognizes that it is in everyone's best interest to maintain compatibility and see this as less of an issue.
Note that, while this does further open up the Flash Player, this does not mean it is going open source. I personally think Adobe will be going there eventually, one of the major obstacles right is the use of certain audio/video codecs and the Saffron text rendering for FlashType that they licensed and can't open up.
If you are a device manufacturer and wanted to embed the Flash Player on your hardware there were always licensing fees involved.
Starting from the next release after this announcement (not the one currently in development) all license fees and restrictions will be removed for Flash Lite and Flash for devices.
Over the last few years I've worked on a couple of projects where we wanted to get the Flash Player on a specific device but licensing was a real show stopper. Soon this will be a thing of the past and I'm sure we'll see the Flash Player on more and more mobile and consumer devices.
Related to removing the license fees for embedding the Flash Player, Adobe will also be publicly releasing the APIs for the porting layer which enables you to make the Flash Player run on your environment.
This means you no longer necessarily need to rely on Adobe making a Flash Player that is compatible on your specific device but can work on it yourself.
Working with the various partners the goal is also to make sure this consistent runtime can be updated over the air across all different devices, much like the Flash Player can be right now.
Flash Cast is a rich offline portal solution for mobile phone operators and content providers and uses an optimized protocol for data transfer to mobile devices that will be made publicly available in the next few months as part of the Open Screen Project.
Again this is a tremendous benefit for Flash on mobile devices that are more concerned about bandwidth usage etc. Along with the AMF specification that was released as part of BlazeDS we've now got some great technologies for working with data across the Flash Platform.
The announcement covers both the Flash Player as the Adobe Integrated Runtime which makes it extra exciting. Just as AIR has helped bridge the gap between the web and the desktop, I believe this Open Screen Project will lay the foundation to do the same for Flash content across desktop, mobile and devices with a consistent runtime and toolset.
Adobe continues to surprise me in how far they are willing to go in opening up technologies and supporting the efforts of an 'open web' and I can only applaud them for doing so.
In hindsight there were some indications of a convergence between desktop and mobile Flash Platform efforts with the announcement of moving towards an integrated technology business unit under Kevin Lynch. The combined efforts of the different teams and increased openness of the Flash Player and SWF specification can only drive innovation. Exciting times ahead!