The news is official out of the Adobe Industry Analyst Summit that multi-touch Flash has been confirmed. This is going to introduce a new era of Flash development, where coders will be targeting specific hardware capabilities to carry out the full experience of their apps. Assuming there will be a minimal audience of developers coding Flash Multi-Touch only apps, I’m curious to know how developers will handle having to code two separate user interfaces in their apps — just to take advantage of Multi-Touch (and potential accelerometer features) — yet keep the app usable to those without it.
In other words, you, the developer, take on the assignment of coding a Multi-Touch-enabled app. That’s awesome — cool for you! Now, you’ve no doubt got a Flash Multi-Touch enabled device in hand (or a very cool simulator, perhaps in Device Central) to test your app against. But wait… what about those users that may download and install your app that don’t have Multi-Touch-enabled devices? Unless there is a way to only distribute Touch Flash apps to Touch-enabled devices, your app will need a second interface (2’face) to accommodate these users. Perhaps you can provision some nifty tab-ordering for them? If it’s a game, what could you do to avoid make the app totally unusable.
Multi-Touch (and accelerometer) will certainly let developers (and target devices) compete with iPhone. Since iPhone and iPod Touch have this universal feature of touch-ability, it’s not an issue. As an iPhone developer, you don’t need to consider the ‘what ifs’ as you will need to with Flash Touch. (The comparable issue on the iPhone side is actually apparent with network-based and location-based apps, where there is much less feature ability/parity between the devices.)
Now, having said all this, I actually have experience building a ‘touch’-enabled Flash mobile app. In fact, many Flash lite developers do. The Flash Lite platform had a flag in it called System.capabilities.hasStylus(), which tells you if the device is touch-responsive. I used this back in March 2007 when coding a mobile maps app (for Yahoo! hack day) (the app won, btw). Without this feature, it was very difficult to scroll the map tiles of my app. I had to depend on user cursor interaction on the device, which was not as sleek and effective as using your styles to drag the tiles around.
Those who have built apps for the Chumby have also already had access, via Flash Platform, to touchscreen and accelerometer features. I wonder how those Chumby apps that target these features have translated to other mobile devices.
It will be an interesting challenge, but I’m sure Adobe and the Flash community will figure out an effective way of handling this. My biggest interest is how it may affect initial adoption. If developers need to charge extra for not adding in multi-touch support, but rather adding in a 2’face alternative, will the advantage of such a feature be fully realized so quickly?