In case you’ve grown accustomed to the cool dampness of the underside of a rock, you’ve heard the news. AIR Mobile for Android has been announced, bringing Flash to even more devices in the future. With the already imminent release of Flash Player 10.1 on mobile devices, and Flash CS5’s back door into the iPhone App Store, it’s hard to deny the potential effects on our computing habits in the future. Check out the video demos on the Motorola Droid with Kevin Hoyt:
@PeterElst made an excellent point, which I fully agree with :
“AIR on mobile has huge potential, possibly more significant than video playback support was for the Flash Player” Think about it: Flash has the very real potential to become the default mobile device development platform, just as Flash video has become the default media distribution platform, and online games are almost exclusively Flash-powered. How will Flash take content to the next level? Contextual Applications. Many are new to this term. Some of you may know that I’m not a huge fan of the term “Rich Internet Application” or “RIA.” It may seem rather nitpicky, but let me explain it briefly. I don’t love the idea of describing what something is, by using an adjective. “Rich” is subjective and vague. “Internet” seems rather redundant these days, as almost every device we use is online-capable at least, and almost every application we use regularly relies on the internet. “Application” isn’t perfect, but for non-developers, I think it’s a fitting and descriptive solution. Even “mobile” really doesn’t do it justice, because, computing devices are getting increasingly disconnected (netbooks, tablets, phones, notebooks, etc). I’ve also heard the term “Multi-screen Applications” recently, which is a definite improvement, but it’s still not quite descriptive or succinct enough for me. Others in the same line of thinking have offered more relavent alternatives. Chad Udell added some very informed suggestions, entitled “The RIA is Dead, Long Live the RIA,” (my thoughts are in the 1st comment, if you care). Ryan Stewart wrote, what was to me, a paradigm-shifting article entitled “Introducing Contextual Applications,” a term which I have welcomed into my personal development vernacular. Although Ryan himself didn’t coin it, I think it’s the most appropriate description of how we as users need an application to be designed. Why? Users expect a consistent, personalized experience no matter what device he or she uses to access content. Flash as a content-creation tool, is the best that I know of at providing platform-independent applications with design integrity maintained. As for the back end services, Flash Builder’s Data-Centric Design is making service calls silly easy, and less and less coupled to the user interface. Developers are getting closer to the holy grail concept of “deploy once, run anywhere,” but we’d be naive to think that this will be perfect out of the box. It is by far the closest we have ever come, though. With AIR Mobile, Flash Player 10.1 becoming a standard on almost all mobile devices, the iPhone Application Packager in Flash Pro CS5, Slider (Flex Mobile), 3rd party tools like OpenPlug Ellipsis, and new carrier-backed ecosystems combating the App Store, Google embracing Flash/AIR on Android, and (possibly the most underrated bullet point) the mobile game market potential, the experiences we develop can exist in practically any “context.” Our responsibility as designers and developers is to understand good user experience design, and to learn the advantages and limitations of each device our content ends up on. I’ll discuss more about this in my Flash and the City session, but Flash is the most flexible content platform in my opinion, and with the new APIs in Flash Player 10.1, contextual adaptation has never been easier. It has also never been more important.