Macromedia Takes Flash Mobile

Macromedia begins "mobilizing" plans for Flash content for cell phones.

Macromedia Inc. is delving further into micromedia with product, service and acquisition plans for Flash content on cell phones.

The company is making a "big bet" on rich Internet applications, said Juha Christensen, president of Macromedias Mobile and Devices division.

This week, the company will introduce a new version of its Flash media player for mobile phones. Flash Lite 1.1 includes support for SVG-T (Scalable Vector Graphics-Tiny), the World Wide Web Consortium standard for rendering graphics on mobile phones. Christensen said some handset manufacturers required SVG-T before agreeing to support Flash.

Flash Lite 1.1 features network functions that let Flash content make dynamic server queries, and it includes scripting commands and load variables that let developers integrate Flash content with phone features such as multimedia messaging. Flash Lite 1.1 also supports several audio formats.

The software development kit will be available next month; the reference platform is Symbian Ltd.s Symbian OS.

In the next few months, Macromedia will ramp up its mobile sales force to target enterprise customers and content providers. The company plans to acquire three to five mobility-focused companies in the next year, Christensen said. While he declined to name prospects, Christensen said he is interested in companies that deal in digital rights management and security, although Flash content security has not yet been a problem.

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Developers said that Flash is a great idea for phones but that its a moot point unless phone makers agree.

"Flash on the phone will make it significantly easier to develop rich-media applications," said Harry Kargman, president and CEO of Kargo Inc., a wireless device software developer in New York. "However, given the current lack of adoption in this country by handset manufacturers, it is difficult to justify the cost of development."

So far, NTT DoCoMo Inc., Bellwave Co. Ltd., T-Mobile USA Inc. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB have licensed Flash Lite 1.1, but none has announced plans to deploy it.

While the initial version of Flash Lite has been popular in Japan, Christensen acknowledged that adoption has been slower in the United States. To that end, Macromedia, which is based in San Francisco, is hoping to garner interest with a Flash-based application service called FlashCast.

FlashCast works much like cable TV, with customers paying a set fee for basic information channels and additional fees for premium channels. Christensen said the vector-based nature of Flash makes FlashCast applications better-looking and easier to use than those based on WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) or Java.

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