Brewing Up Something Flashy
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jun 03 21:30:00 GMT 2005

Macromedia says it will port Flash Lite to Qualcomm's BREW system. The open nature of Flash might seem diametrically opposed the closed nature of BREW, but the two fit together in an interesting way.

2005 has been a breakout year for Flash Lite. While it was already popular in Japan, it's announced big licensing deals and been highly visible at industry events this year, and today announced it would develop Flash Lite for Qualcomm's BREW system.

One particularly compelling part of Flash Lite -- and something Macromedia likes to trumpet -- is the large existing pool of Flash developers and the ease with which Flash Lite applications can be written. They also emphasize how powerful Flash can be, both to create rich applications, but also its ability to reach down in the phone and become a user interface. All those points are valid and significant ones.

But how does it fit in with BREW, whose overwhelming mantra seems to be to empower operator control? One point of concern that's already popping up is how Flash Lite development will fit into BREW's certification and authentication system, which is prohibitively expensive for many small and independent developers. Mike Krisher wonders if Flash Lite itself will need to be approved, but the content won't -- though he admits that's likely wishful thinking. So while the deal might open up millions of CDMA handsets to Flash developers, just how open will the platform be?

There's also the possibility that BREW and its carriers aren't so interested in the easy development enabled by Flash Lite, but rather its ability to handle pushed content, such as through FlashCast. That makes a little more sense in the context of BREW -- limit users to some operator-chosen (and billable) channels to push content down. It's a way to harness the possibility of rich, dynamic, updated content, but still exert a large degree of control over it, rather than letting users simply add whatever they wanted.

The ability to receive pushed content is also included in Qualcomm's uiOne user interface, but perhaps carriers are looking for the possibility to be able to push content across multiple handset platforms.