Mobile

DoCoMo adds Flash to phones

The Japanese phone giant will become the first carrier to provide services based on Macromedia's Flash player.

Japanese cell phone giant NTT DoCoMo will become the first phone carrier to offer services based on Macromedia's Flash animation player, Macromedia is set to announce Monday.

Flash is one of the most commonly used PC applications, installed on more than 98 percent of PCs worldwide to serve up everything from animated Web ads to homemade cartoons. With the new version of Flash, however, Macromedia began eyeing a bigger territory, positioning the Flash player as the foundation of a new era of Web services that could also be easily ported to smaller devices, such as mobile phones and handheld computers.

Under Monday's agreement, DoCoMo will include the Flash player software on new high-end I-mode phones, starting with the 505i series, to be introduced late this year in Japan.

The phones will be accompanied by Flash-based services that will let subscribers take advantage of data services without having to navigate through many screens of text, said Macromedia CEO Rob Burgess. Animated weather maps, for example, would give subscribers current forecasts for the region they click on.

"The services are all much richer, and the interface is much easier to navigate, with Flash," Burgess said.

Flash MX, the current set of developer tools used by Flash programmers, includes many tools for automatically adapting existing content for various display formats, including phone screens. That means phone carriers can tap into a variety of existing applications and services.

"I think that one of the things DoCoMo and other companies value is that there's a developer community in the millions they can take advantage of right away," Burgess said.

Keith Waryas, an analyst for research firm IDC, said the Flash player should be attractive to carriers because it can display sophisticated graphics and animation effects while using minimal resources on the cell phone and over the air.

"One of the things every carrier in the world is looking for now is MMS (multimedia message service wireless messaging) revenue," Waryas said. "Once you get past sending pictures and stuff like that, the next step is to offer streaming services. The downside is that these new services tend to chew up bandwidth in a far less predictable way than voice.

"With Flash, you've got a very small applet that gets downloaded and uses bandwidth very efficiently. You don't have a constant network connection, but you're able to get streaminglike features."