Where has Flash shown up? More places than we could ever list. This book is one of the first to demystify how to create content for interactive TV, gaming consoles (such as Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox), broadcast TV, Pocket PCs, PDAs, tablet computers, and user interfaces for pretty much anything and anywhere humans touch machines.
Why is Flash so appealing to device manufacturers and developers? Its attraction goes beyond a clever interface and good marketing. Flash has been created over time with developers and by developers. By listening to the people using the tools the most in current and emerging markets, Macromedia has created a tool for both designers and developers. The convergence of the two is where we're heading as opposed to pre-Flash days, with designers and developers never interacting during the creation process.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Return on Investment (ROI) is something that we'll hear more and more about in the forthcoming years. Not just because the economy ebbs and flows, but ROI is something that works in everyone's benefit to get the best possible product for fair compensation. Flash offers the speed and ease of development of any world-class design tool (such as Illustrator or FreeHand) and the development environment of any traditional coding tool. Project budgets and timelines will continually decrease, while the learning curve of the development staff will need to keep pace. If you've developed content for other devices, you've suffered through variants of languages, processor specific code, compiling issues, short life spans, the development tools, and the dead-end formats. With Flash, content you create now, or have created in the past, will run now and forever. Many developers are speechless when the content they created for a project runs seamlessly and flawlessly on a new embedded device or a pocket PC a platform they never even thought of during development.
As is the case in many innovations, the original purpose is often not fulfilled. It's when people take a creation and use it in new and amazing ways that the creation truly shines. Flash is a good example of this. Earthlink, for example, has recently created a series of television commercials using Flash and have reduced their production costs and time to market. Levis Strauss and Co. has also used Flash to reduce application development time. Their "Buddy Lee Staring Contest" application works on both the desktop and pocket PC. The application, which was Flash-based, did not need to be re-created for the specific device because Flash was used on the device to deliver the content and still fits on the device.
With embedded devices such as Set Top boxes and PDAs always having smaller amounts of storage space, and that space costing a premium as compared to their older desktop cousins, Flash is a valued option. The Flash Player fits nicely on most embedded systems, as well as with the content files. With most embedded systems living on existing wireless networks with maximum transfer speeds barely exceeding 9.6kbps, not only is a small file format such as Flash needed, it's required. Also, because all the Internet connectivity is built inside the Flash Player, a developer does not need to create connection libraries and new protocols just for a one-off application.
In fact, there are already companies building entire devices around the Flash format, such as the Pogo device (www.pogo-tech.com/device.html) (see Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1. Devices, such as Pogo, are being developed specifically for the Flash format.
This is just one of many devices and companies that we're excited to see leading the charge with Flash being used as the glue between hardware, connectivity, and user interfaces.
For game developers, most game titles are created for multiple game systems. The most important part of a game (besides the game play) is the menu and informational systems used to operate the game. Game developers should not spend large amounts of precious development time on the menu systems. By using Flash for user interface elements, interfaces can be created by UI experts and designers and the game developers can focus on the actual game. In early 2001, Orange Design, Inc. (in partnership with LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC, Secret Level Tools, and Macromedia) announced the first ever Flash application for the PlayStation 2, for "Star Wars Starfighter." The Flash approach can easily be extended to DVD menus and interactive TV interactive applications.
Built for Branding
A common theme across many Flash applications is branding. Brands increasingly are becoming more than just a logo, typeface, and the messaging to the consumer. Brand developers often choose Flash because of its support for vector graphics allowing logos to be preserved, full font support, and photographic images. Brands are becoming a part of the user interface itself; the only thing more memorable than a good user interface is a bad one. On every Windows XP CD there is a Flash presentation that showcases the latest operating system from Microsoft while still preserving the entire Microsoft brand and messaging.
Macromedia and Microsoft have furthered their existing relationship with a commitment to Flash Player support across all Windows embedded platforms. The Flash Player Source Code SDK provides source code and documentation for fast porting to Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 and Windows CE .NET platforms, along with existing support for Windows XP Embedded. As Microsoft moves into new arenas such as console gaming, home automation systems, interactive TV, and smart phones, the partnership with Macromedia will ensure that the applications of today run on the systems of tomorrow.
With Flash, we can be screen size agnostic. In other words Flash can scale from the small screen of a smart phone to the large screen of the Jumbo-Tron in Times Square. With minor modification and proper planning, much of your content will never need to be re-authored.