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Flash on the iPhone, but not in the browser

A nice "one more thing" announcement at Adobe MAX this morning: Flash Professional CS5 will enable you to build applications for iPhone and iPod touch using ActionScript 3. These applications will be delivered to iPhone and iPod touch users through the Apple App Store.

So while this is extremely exciting (as in, I just became an iPhone developer in 5 minutes this morning exciting) there are a few things to note:

1. This is only for standalone applications - meaning iPhone/iPod Touch applications that you download from Apple's App Store either on your phone or via iTunes. It does not include Flash played via the Safari mobile web browser. So no online Flash video just yet. Ryan Stewart, an Adobe Platform Evangelist tweeted the following today during the keynote: "When Apple is ready to bring the full Web browsing experience to iPhone users, we'll be ready to bring Flash Player to Safari."

2. You cannot load external SWFs into the apps you compile for the iPhone. The official line on this is: "iPhone applications built with Flash Platform tools are compiled into standard, native iPhone executable packages and there is no runtime interpreter that could be used to run ActionScript bytecode within the application." But in reality, Adobe is just staying within the limits imposed by Apple and their "no running other bytecode in apps" rule.

3. This won't be available until Flash CS5 is released. The good news here is that a public beta of Flash CS5 will be released before the end of 2009.

You can read all about this announcement over on Adobe Labs: Flash Professional CS5 Applications for iPhone, at the official Adobe press release, and in the Adobe Dev Center where they have posted an article about Developing for the Apple iPhone using Flash. The Dev Center article goes into some good technical explanation of what is going on behind the scenes.

There is also an extensive technical FAQ available on Adobe Labs which is worth the read.

Lastly, you can see some quick video of the Mythbusters-type segment they did as the announcement below:

ActionScript 3 Reference for the iPhone

Mike Chambers from Adobe just released a new iPhone app for viewing the ActionScript 3 documentation.

actionscript-reference-iphone

The app includes class references for Adobe AIR 1.5, Adobe Flex 3.2 and Flash Player 10. I've been testing it this weekend and it has run great.

There is more information on Mike's website for the app, including a download link for the iTunes App Store. If you want to install the app directly on your phone, you'll need to search for "Mike Chambers" to find the app while it works its way into the App Store search.

The real deal with Flash on the iPhone, from Adobe

Mike Downey, a Platform Evangelist at Adobe, just posted the entire, correct story of Flash on the iPhone. As mentioned in his post, a lot of people have been blogging about how Flash is coming to the iPhone. However, the reports of Adobe CEO's comments about Flash support on the iPhone yesterday were not necessarily complete and accurate, so Mike has taken upon himself to clear the air.

Worth the read, if nothing else, to help guide you through the hype to what the real story is...

Update: Bill Perry, also from Adobe, has also posted an even a more detailed account of the facts on his Flash Devices blog.

Quick Look Plugins List

For a while now I have kept a list of small projects that I'd like to do when I have time. I call these "weekend projects" because they should take me no longer than a weekend to get them up and running. Last weekend I _finally_ got to knock one of those off the list: http://www.quicklookplugins.com.

QuickLook Plugins List is a directory of Quick Look Plugins for Apple’s OS X 10.5 Leopard. If you are unfamiliar with Quick Look in OS X 10.5, you can read more about it here. Basically, Quick Look in Mac OS X Leopard lets you play, view, and page through your files without opening them. And this new site aims to keep a directory of plugins that developers have written for this new technology, allowing you to use this feature with a much greater set of file types such as ZIP, XML, FLV and more.

This all started from a blog post Keith Peters did last month when he mentioned ColorXML which adds color formatting to XML files in Quick Look. I did some research and found several plugins, but they were all scattered around the internet on various blogs and forum postings. Hopefully this new site will help to avoid that scavenger hunt.

If you see that any are missing on the site, I encourage you to use the contact form and send them along. Also, you can help the site out by 'Digging' it on Digg.

Enjoy!

Flash Player to Support H.264 Video

News straight from the Flash Player development team:

* You can load and play .mp4,.m4v,.m4a,.mov and .3gp files using the same NetStream API you use to load FLV files now. We did not add any sort of new API in the Flash Player. All your existing video playback front ends will work as they are. As long as they do not look at the file extension that is, though renaming the files to use the .flv file extension might help your component. The Flash Player itself does not care about file extensions, you can feed it .txt files for all it matters. The Flash Player always looks inside the file to determine what type of file it is.

* A new version of FMS is upcoming and will support the new file format. This is powerful stuff. Simply drop video files you might have encoded using one of the countless tools out there onto the server and it'll stream.

Based on the rest of Tinic's post (it is a long and somewhat technical read), it looks like Adobe will be transitioning away from the FLV format due to some technical limitations. But, I'm wondering if the change will enable some sort of rights management -- even though the post says the Flash Player will not support FairPlay protected videos, there are plenty of other rights management systems out there. Rights management is a very commonly requested feature by sites like ABC.com and others who used to stream all their video in Flash.

Lastly, now that YouTube has been encoding all their video into a Quicktime-playable format (for the iPhone and AppleTV) as well as FLV, I'm wondering when/if they will switch over to only H.264 encoding with Flash Player delivery. This is a win-win for Adobe and Apple: the Flash Player will remain the delivery method of choice due to its massive install base, and H.264/Quicktime formats have just made a comeback as the encoding choice for web delivery.

Update: Ryan Stewart answers some common questions about this update, and Aral Balkan has a very detailed FAQ on his blog. I also adjusted the title to be more technically correct, as Apple didn't invent the H.264 codec, just enables Quicktime to play the specific codec format.

Apple Releases Safari 3 for Windows

SafariAt today's WWDC Keynote Steve Jobs announced that similar to iTunes, Safari 3 will now be cross-platform. As an interactive developer this announcement was not welcomed by me because instead of two major browsers, I'll have to develop (non-Flash) sites for three (IE, Firefox and Safari).

I suppose the case could be made that interactive designers and developers have had to create for three browsers ever since Safari for OS X was released, but the market share of Safari (and those users who use Safari over Firefox on their Macs) was quite small. By introducing this to the Windows market, the task of testing on every browser becomes a growing problem, not a shrinking one.

So be sure to download and install the public beta of Safari 3 from Apple's website (http://www.apple.com/safari/), as you'll need to add Safari for Windows to your CSS and JavaScript testing suite.

Some times Flash's ability to run identically across all browsers on any platform just makes it shine even more. Today's Safari announcement makes the decision to develop for the Flash Platform that much easier.

Update: Todd Dominey and Shaun Inmann both weigh in on the issue with some good points:

Todd: "Speaking of web development, the release of Safari for Windows is fantastic news. Finally, Windows developers will be able to preview/test their work in Safari, without owning a Mac, and have a pretty accurate (if not identical) representation of what Mac users will see."

Shaun: "It took me quite a while to get onboard with Safari when it was originally released for OS X: the prospect of having yet another browser to debug didn’t endear Apple to many developers. But Safari on Windows is another story entirely.

Assuming the rendering engine is consistent (I wonder how it will handle anti-aliasing) this is a huge windfall for Safari users on the Mac because even moderate adoption on the PC means more attention payed to the rendering engine’s quirks which will result in a better experience for all."

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