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Sony Ericsson to extend Flash Lite capabilities

Sony Ericsson to extend Flash Lite capabilities

SonyEricsson has lagged behind other phone vendors in terms of Flash support, but today they announced 'Project Capuchin' - a plan to Flash-enable most of their phones. By creating a bridge between Flash and the Java based phone API, Flash developers should be able to access all the phone features including bluetooth, motion sensors, payment and more using a new SWF2JAR packaging tool.

According to Adobe's official device listing, Sony Ericsson (SE) has 42 phones with Flash included. Most of these offer Flash Lite 1 or 1.1, a platform launched about 5 years ago and considered more or less obsolete by Flash developers as it requires you to write your code using Actionscript 1 syntax (a rare skill these days). Competitor Nokia has more than 70 phones, most of them supporting the more advanced Flash Lite 2 specification and some even the new Flash Lite 3 version.

Yesterday, Flashmagazine talked to Ulf Wretling (Head of Developer Program & Communications) and Christopher David (Director of Long term Platform Planning for Java) and they revealed 'Project Capuchin' - the plan to change this by giving Flash developers access to more phone features than any competitor does. This could prove a clever move as Flash developers are a curious breed - they love new possibilities and breaking limitations. Ulf Wretling says "this about the UI, not the technology", but we think he'll be surprised with what Flash developers can come up with if SE's promise of full API access holds up.

All future SE phones that have the required processing power and supports Java Platform 8.4 and upwards will get the ability to run Flash files. This will not be in the form of a standalone Flash Player, but rather as a Java wrapper for SWF files. By taking this approach, you can deploy your Flash applications using the standard JAR files and application signing using Java Verified (similar to Symbian Signed for Symbian phones). Playback will not happen using the standard Flash Lite player, even though this may be shipped on some of these phones as well. While the Flash Lite Player often is an optional install for operators, this Java and SWF integration cannot be "turned off" as it is part of the Java ME subsystem. This is great as it makes it fully possible to predict the number of handsets you can target.

The Flash Lite version supported will be 2.0 and 2.1, but you'll get access to features that surpass the FL2 specification. The phones have a Java subsystem with extensive APIs that vary from handset to handset, but it will contain stuff like Wireless Messaging, multimedia API, PIM data and file system access, Bluetooth, Web Services, Location based services, hardware sensors and much more. With this feature list, SE could really become the new playground for Flash Mobile developers.

To package the JAR based applications, SE has developed a SWF2JAR packaging tool. SWF files wrapped with this, will get access to the Java Bridge and the APIs. Applications can be deployed as standalone, wallpaper, screensavers and idle screens. According to Christopher David, here's no plans to limit how you can use the applications, but when running like i.e a screensaver, the application may get limited API access. SE does not plan to keep this to themselves either. They want to share this in a broad sense so to get more vendors on board.

So - when can we use all this goodness then? The phones will ship over the cause of the next half year and it will ship on as many phones as possible. Entry level phones with weak CPUs is not likely to get this. Developers will get access to whitepapers and tools prior to the phone launch 2nd half of 2008, but no exact date has been given. SE will demo the setup at the upcoming JavaOne conference.

 

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G-series touchscreen phone from SonyEricsson, possible target for the new Flash/Java platform?

 

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