Since the birth of the telegraph, the progression of technology has surpassed all expectations. Like never before we have access to information at the click of a button. In this world of instant gratification, the hands that feed us tend to dictate when and how we receive our daily fix. Being a firm believer of media serving its own agenda, the complications faced during my final project were more than disappointing. They were restricting.
We have all walked by a “Do Not Enter” sign and clearly understood its intentions, but something’s just don’t make any sense. Like limitations on services we pay for. Why should I have to wait for them to work out the kinks? Especially when I know the kinks were put there purposely.
My final project (chosen by Moi) was to develop a very simple Flash game and to load it on to a flash-enabled cell phone. For those of you who are not up to date with all the hub-bub in the cellular world, allow me to fill in the gaps, since as of late I am a self proclaimed expert.
First of all, Flash, a software that allows developers to design animation, games, and other interactive content, has recently teamed up with cellular giant Verizon wireless to introduce their new Flash enabled phones. What this means, in short, is consumers with the right equipment can download and play Flash games on their cell phones. Unlike many of its predecessors’, Flash delivers rich content over a smooth platform, making it stand out from the rest.
Flash, which is now owned by Adobe, recently introduced its new roll out of flash-enabled cellular devices on October 25, 2006 in a worldwide press release. The goal is to capture the market of emerging technologies in
North America before the competition does. Here is what vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless John Stratton had to say, “At Verizon Wireless we recognize that an exciting and simple to use mobile experience will accelerate customer adoption of new data services now offered across our network. Our relationship with Adobe will help us deliver a rich, seamless and branded experience across mobile devices and at verizonwireless.com” (Stratton, Adobe.com, pg.1). This translates into setting the tone for the competition and fattening Verizon’s wallet. As told to me by a Verizon wireless representative, “Verizon is trying to cushion its existing users while attracting new subscribers from their competition.” I have to admit it’s brilliant. Only two other mobile carriers offer this type of technology, DTT DoCoMo and KDDI, both based out of
Japan. In comparison to mobile phone culture in
Japan, we are slow adapters. The mobile phone industry is booming and also a huge part of Japanese culture, mainly among teens. The mobile phone serves a wide variety of purposes for people of
Japan. Through their 3G service they can purchase drinks and snacks at vending machines, get detailed maps of buildings, and enjoy lightening fast downloads through the power of i-mode. Cell phones play such a big role that specialized clothing is on the market designed with custom pockets to carry mobile devices. In
Japan the mobile revolution is much more than fun and games, it is a necessary part of life.
During my project, I expected some hiccups but I was no where near prepared for the ride I was about to embark. Being a product of the 80’s, I grew up in what I remember as a very colorful and animated time. I would watch marathons of cartoons while drawing and coloring the images that raced through my mind. As a kid, I was fascinated with the art of animation. Coming from a graphic design background, learning Flash has always been a goal of mine. I figured what better way to learn the software than to throw myself into a Flash project. With the help of the Element K tutorials from Quinnipiac, and the mighty thick Flash book I bought, it wasn’t so bad. The game I made is a spin off of one I remember playing eons ago. My initial choice would have been something much more advanced like Donkey Kong. Unfortunately, due to my novice nature, I had to settle for simple and attractive. Even though there were minor bumps in the road during development, the big challenge arose with delivering the content. Now keep in mind, Adobe’s website plays a big role in contributing to confusion. The website does a good job sticking to some web standards but lacks big time in the navigation department. For some reason, it is easy to get confused about where you saw what, even though they use breadcrumb trails. I had a hard time remembering where certain pieces of information were and caught myself thinking way too much about where to click next. The information I was trying to gather should have stuck out like an old lady in leather chaps. Instead, I was forced to stumble from page to page trying to locate what I needed. Many times, the most logical places to click actually became the most obscure. This contributed to a lot of lost time and frustration. Obvious enough, Verizon and Adobe don’t have a good handle on this partnership what-so-ever.
After all, it is a new venture so giving them the benefit of the doubt thus far would seem fair. Oddly enough, I see it as feeling out the playing field. Most companies, particularly computer manufactures, produce faulty products and mark them down by serial number anticipating their return just so they can meet their quota. This type of structure helps with numbers but leaves the consumer feeling cheated. This seems to be the stage Verizon is at with the Flash release. I say this because of the experience I had trying to publish my Flash game. Now to properly distribute Flash content to Flash-enabled devices one must either submit content to Verizon wireless directly or to already contracted developers approved by Verizon. This content, once tested and approved, is then given a price structure and sent through Verizon’s BREW application for distribution. BREW, Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless, is an application developed by Verizon allowing consumers to view and purchase content through their wireless phones. Such features as “Get it Now” and “V-Cast” run on this software offering users access to a variety of content from ringbones to TV shows. This is the primary application used to distribute Flash content to flash-enabled phones.
When acquiring the information needed to complete this process, one major factor is licensing. Verizon will allow anyone to submit content for possible distribution providing you purchase the minimum of a 100 licenses for $400. Once I figured that out, this route was out of the question. Another option would be to purchase a flash-enabled device and Bluetooth the file over wireless to the phone. This seeming like the most logical option, I pursued this route. Recently, I was able to upgrade my niece’s phone on my account. Lucky enough the phone she has been dreaming of was flash-enabled. This was perfect, except there was one little problem, her new phone doesn’t support OBEX file transfer through Bluetooth. I discovered this after the purchase of the new phone. Through several hours of investigation I came across several articles posted by angry subscribers bashing the OBEX block. From what I gathered, Verizon blocked the transfer of files through Bluetooth so customers would be forced to purchase a data cable and software. At this point, it seemed like smart marketing. Well the data cable doesn’t work either. Come to find out file transfer is not an option on this phone. Throughout my investigation, phones which are Flash enabled do not allow file transfer and those that are do not support the Flash player. Masterfully, Verizon has covered every base to protect un-licensed content from being distributed and for good reason. Unbeknownst to me, cell phones are just as hack able as computers. Many advanced users can access secret menus and at the push of a few buttons crack codes and unlock features of the phones. This provides the hackers with access to subscription content for free; more importantly, this is major reason why Verizon is putting their foot down.
In the midst of my dilemma, I stumbled upon an article concerning a class action against Verizon involving another phone that had Bluetooth file transfers disabled. It seems to me Verizon’s mission to deliver Flash content to
North America has put a big clog in the drain. Users want freedom not limitations. All new mobile devices should be equipped with in demand features or have an option to purchase them. Furthermore, Verizon’s lock down of features keeps the market in their reins so they can work out the kinks and get a grip on what the people want. In the meantime I am still searching for a solution to my problem.
For the future, I hope a compromise that allows students, such as myself, the freedom to test a game on my phone, even if it requires a monthly fee. If the consumer feels in control the more likely they are to spend money. One thing we can expect to see in the near future is more customizable interactive content. Consumers enjoy the freedom of choices and like to participate in the process. Hey Verizon- Can you hear me now?