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September 16, 2009

Ovi Store App: An open screen on CNN

BOSTON, USA – Nokia and Adobe announced this past February a $10M fund for developers of Flash applications for mobiles, called the Open Screen Project. We spoke recently with Kirk Ballou from Flash Widgets, a small company that makes Flash-based widgets for mobile devices. Flash Widgets is among the first to be awarded a grant from the Nokia-Adobe Open Screen fund.

We asked Kirk a bit about his company, developing with Flash for mobiles, and how they got involved with Nokia and Adobe. He also told me a bit about his two Open Screen Fund apps, one a CNN news reader, the other a Twitter app for mobiles.

Read on for the whole story.

Flash in a hand
Kirk has been building Flash apps for about 10 years. His experience in mobile goes back to some work he did with the US carrier, Verizon, embedding Flash in their devices. Recently, his company has been working on a Flash-based Twitter client called Twittle. They wanted to close a gap they saw in mobile Twitter clients (and to trump the UI of, ahem, some of the ones with more pull).

At CTIA this spring, he showed Twittle to a Nokia exec which ended up opening up a bunch of doors for Kirk and his company, eventually leading to a new Open Screen Project for CNN.

You can have the sizzle and the Flash
The CNN news reader is a Flash-based video widget for the Nokia N97 and the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Kirk’s intention was to make an app that was more than just a news digest. His goal with the CNN widget was to bring a new way to view news videos, and to provide an enhanced touch experience.

Indeed, full-screen video is the highlight of the app. It uses something called “progressive download,” that was optimized by Nokia to support responsive video-rich mobile apps.

The app will be available in most countries via the Ovi Store, and translated into various languages. And, like most mobile developers, Kirk hopes to be pre-installed some day on some devices.

Is there any substance to the Flash?
I briefly asked Kirk what’s it like do develop with Flash for various different sorts of phones. He said that there were some areas of overlap between phones. For example, there is little reworking of the app needed for touch apps across, say, Windows Mobile and Symbian. And it’s not a huge rework to make sure the graphics and navigation work with a keypad and smaller screen size of a non-touch phone. Basically, the major differences between phones is when accessing lower-level data in a phone.

That’s not unexpected. But he did say that developing on Flash is close to half the time he would work with a similar app in Java.


Do you create or use Flash apps on your phone?

Here are some screen shots of the app