In this interview with Artima, Adobe's James Ward explains how the Open Screen Project, once it delivers actual software, will benefit Flex developers, and how it relates to the company's other Flash-based projects:
Today, Flash Light is installed on about 500 million mobile devices. It has been an important part of our strategy, but there were some things holding it back from being even more widely adopted and from becoming part of our overall platform strategy. One was that we were charging royalties to put this runtime on devices. In addition, the runtime today isn't capable to run Flex applications.
Where we're headed now is to make Flash on mobile devices a core part of our platform so that developers can use the Flex development tools to build for mobile devices, and to get that runtime on even more devices.
That's what the Open Screen Project is about. It will make mobile and set-top boxes and small devices very important parts of the Adobe platform. We're creating a common layer across all those for building applications and delivering rich content on them. It's similar to what the browser did for PCs in creating a level playing field on top of disparate hardware and operating systems, and we're trying to make that possible on mobile devices.
There will always be differences between device capabilities: the iPhone, for example, has a multi-touch interface, whereas many other devices don't, and in those devices you can move around only with the help of a cursor on the UI. So there will be differences in implementation, but we will try to make it easy for developers to not have to re-write a lot of code in order to handle those differences.
We're looking at having a light-weight runtime, Flash Light, and we're also working on getting Adobe AIR on more powerful devices. You probably won't be able to put Adobe AIR on a flip-phone, unless it was pretty high-powered, but you could do that with more powerful smart-phones, for example. We're not certain yet what the specific differences between those two would be, but the ultimate goal is to allow people to build Flex applications and run Flash content on their mobile devices.
In conjunction with that, we're removing some restrictions from how our file formats and specifications for the Flash VM can be used. Today, the Flash Player itself isn't open-source. There is a portion of Flash Player that is open-source: When we built Flash Player 9, we took the virtual machine from Flash Player 9 and open-sourced that with Mozilla, and that's called Tamarin, and is now developed in the Mozilla Tamarin project. At this point, we have not made any announcement about the entire Flash Player being open-sourced.
Instead, we're removing restrictions about how the specifications on the FLV [Flash Video] and SWF [Flash Application] files can be used, and we're removing royalties on using Flash Player on mobile devices. We're also publishing the FlashCast protocol as well as the device porting layer APIs for Flash Player. That will allow people to port Flash Player to a wider range of mobile devices, and also to create a Flash player from scratch, based on the Adobe specifications for the file formats.
Adobe will continue to try to not let the market fragment by providing the best Flash Player there is. We will continue to provide Flash Player across all the major operating systems, and try to make that the best player on each platform so people continue to adopt that one. But now anyone is free to build their own Flash Player.