Category Archives: flash

Developers keen to get apps on Barnes & Noble Nook

I took a quick look round the exhibition here at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles, and was intrigued to see crowds round the Barnes & Noble Nook stand, a newcomer to Max.


Barnes & Noble has its own app store for Color Nook, the AIR runtime is on the device, and in fact is used for some of the built-in apps. It is not the most powerful of tablets, and it only has wi-fi for internet connectivity, but nevertheless is proving a worthwhile market for apps. The store is curated to maintain quality, and one of the points made to me on the stand is that owners expect to pay for their content, making it easier to sell paid-for apps.


Unfortunately this device is not available globally, and of course everyone is waiting to see what impact Amazon’s Kindle Fire will have on Nook’s sales. Even so, for developers who have a suitable app this is a significant market.

The Adobe Flash and Windows Phone 7 mystery

I attended Microsoft’s Mix event in March 2010, where Microsoft gave us the first detailed preview of Windows Phone 7 from the developer perspective. At that time, Microsoft made it clear that the Adobe Flash plug-in would not be supported in the first release, but implied that it would follow.

Did Microsoft ever announce that Flash support would definitely come? I am not sure that it was quite promised, though I do recall Microsoft spokespersons including Charlie Kindel explaining that native code development would not be possible for developers, other than for operators customising the device – the HTC Hub is an example – and for Adobe building Flash.

Adobe’s Mike Chambers did state that:

Adobe and Microsoft are working together to bring Flash Player 10.1 to Internet Explorer Mobile on Windows Phone 7 Series

In June, still pre-release, I spoke to Adobe’s Michael Chaize who told me that work on Flash for Windows Phone 7 was well advanced and that it would follow “within months” of the initial release.

There has also been contrary evidence. Microsoft’s Andy Lees explained to Mary Branscombe:

There is no ActiveX plug-in extensibility [in the browser] because of the security model; we’re not going to do that. And with no ActiveX plug-in model, how would we do Flash?

Fair enough and even sensible, but why did Microsoft imply earlier that Flash was on the way if in fact the security architecture made it impossible? Plans change of course, but I have never been able to get a clear statement on the matter other than vague expressions of cooperation between Adobe and Microsoft. Like this one from Microsoft’s Joe Marini:

We are working with Adobe, but it has not yet been decided the last time I checked – part of that is Adobe is doing what they have to do and we’re doing what we have to do. The last I checked the team is working with them but I don’t think they have any announcement whether it’s going to definitely work or not.

Now Microsoft has just released Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango”, the first major update to the the Phone OS, and Flash is still not supported. Either because Adobe has not yet done “what they have to do”, or because Microsoft has not done “what we have to do”, or because the architecture prevents it, who knows?

You can debate of course whether Flash support is a selling point or a burden for a smartphone – but it would be good to have clarity on the matter.

My own best guess is that if it has not come by now, it never will. Although Microsoft will not say so, for obvious reasons, I also think it is inevitable that the Windows Runtime and the Metro-style development model found in Windows 8 will form the operating system for a future Windows Phone, though I am not sure if it will be Windows Phone 8 or later, but that will change the rules. Currently IE in Metro does not support plug-ins, so I would say the prospects for Flash in the browser on Microsoft’s phone are not good.

What about Adobe AIR for Windows Phone? Interesting question, though it might be difficult given that Adobe would have to in effect create a Flash to Silverlight conversion tool which might hurt a bit. This would be easier on Metro since native code development is supported.

Adobe’s MAX conference is on next week so there may be further information on this long-running topic then.

Adobe to ship Flash 11 and AIR 3, repositions Flash vs HTML 5

Adobe has announced that Flash 11 and AIR 3 will ship in early October.

There are significant changes in this release.

  • Flash gets Stage 3D (previously codenamed Molehill), a set of low-level 3D APIs, GPU accelerated where hardware allows, which will make console-like 3D graphics and games possible in Flash. Stage 3D wraps DirectX on Windows and OpenGL on desktop and mobile platforms.
  • 64-bit Flash is here at last, supporting 64-bit Internet Explorer and other browses on Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • AIR, which uses Flash as a runtime for desktop and mobile applications, now supports native extensions for better device support, operating system integration, and the ability to speed performance-critical code or use open source libraries.
  • In addition, the AIR packager for iOS, which lets you wrap your application as a native executable, is now a feature called Captive Runtime which is available for Windows, Mac and Android as well as iOS. Users who install a packaged application will not know it uses AIR, and will not need to install or update the AIR runtime as it is packaged with the application, though it is not actually a single file (on Windows at least).

These new options make the Flash and AIR combination an interesting comparison with other cross-platform development tools, such as Embarcadero’s new Delphi XE2, which targets Windows, Mac and iOS with a new framework called FireMonkey; or Appcelerator’s Titanium tool for cross-platform desktop and mobile development. Note though that Adobe is not promising any performance improvement. This is just another way to package the same runtime.

Adobe’s advantage is its high quality design and development tools and the maturity of the Flash runtime. For application size and performance, it will likely fall short of true native development tools. The ActionScript language could do with updating, and I would not be surprised if Adobe addresses this in the next major Flash release.

But do we still need Flash? Flash in the browser is in decline, thanks to the influence of Apple and the rise of HTML 5. Adobe’s MAX conference is coming up soon, and I noticed in the schedule [Flash needed] a defensive note in some of the sessions; there is even one called “The Death of Flash” which talks about “the misinformation that’s percolated through the web over the past year”.

That may be so; but even Adobe is re-positioning Flash and recognizing the rise of HTML 5. “Customers see significant advantages for Flash in a few focused areas,” said Adobe’s Danny Winokur, VP and General Manager of Platform , in a press briefing. He identified these areas as gaming, media apps, and “sophisticated data-driven applications” – think data visualisation rather than just forms over data. “For everything else it is very clear that … HTML 5 is a mature enough technology that it is a really good solution.”

Adobe is therefore investing in HTML 5 tools as well as Flash tools, and Winokur mentioned the Edge motion design tool as well as the venerable Dreamweaver.

I asked Winokur, given that HTML 5 is maturing fast, how Adobe sees the picture vs Flash in say two years time. He replied that Adobe is actively working to advance HTML 5, but that “there will continue to be opportunities for innovation in Flash, where we can … enable new possibilities that did not previously exist on the Web.” He makes the case for Flash as a kind of leading edge for HTML, with features that eventually become part of the HTML standard.

It is a fair point, but it is obvious that the niche for Flash is getting smaller rather than larger.

Adobe has never charged for the Flash runtime, and while the Flash vs HTML path is tricky to navigate, Adobe mainly makes its money from design tools, server applications and web analytics, and while Flash plays some client role in many of these products, Adobe can tune them over time to make less use of the runtime. I believe we can see this happening.

More positively, Adobe is benefiting from the demand for rich content across both web and applications, and has just reported decent financial results, showing the company’s resilience.

Finally, everyone is asking what Adobe will do about Microsoft’s WIndows 8 Metro platform for tablets, given that browser plug-ins are not supported. Here is the answer:

… we expect Flash based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the way they are on Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS today

though I hope this will be delivered more quickly than the promised Flash runtime for Windows Phone 7, which is not a subject either Adobe or Microsoft seems willing to talk about.

Update: Adobe has also announced the Flex 4.6 SDK and Flash Builder 4.6, which supports these new capabilities including Captive Runtime and Native Extensions, and has new controls specifically aimed at tablet apps.

Adobe says role of Flex and Flash has changed, makes play for mobile

Adobe’s Andrew Shorten has posted on the future of Flex, the developer-oriented tool for building applications for the Flash runtime.

This is one of the clearest statements I have seen from Adobe that recognises that the role of Flash on the web is diminishing:

There are countless examples where, in the past, Flex was (rightly) selected as the only way to deliver a great user experience. Today, many of those could be built using HTML5-related technologies and delivered via the browser, and at Adobe, we will provide tooling to help designers and developers create those experiences – Edge and Muse are two such examples.

Adobe is not giving up on Flash, of course, and states that it is still the best for certain categories of application:

We firmly believe that Flex is already the best technology for building complex, high fidelity enterprise applications such as business dashboards, line of business tools, real time trading applications and desktop replacement applications.

I would add both statements are written from the perspective of application developers. The role of Flash as a video and multimedia player is a separate issue. Flash is also important in that context. There is some overlap, in that if your application includes multimedia content then Flash is correspondingly more attractive.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that this repositioning of Flash makes it not so different from Microsoft’s Silverlight: a runtime for business applications.

Adobe is focusing on a new market for Flex in mobile. This overcomes the Apple iOS problem, since you can compile a Flex application to iOS native code. Adobe promises “additional mobile development capabilities” later this year and says:

In our next major release timeframe we expect that the need to build a fully-native application will be reserved for a small number of use cases.

I agree that cross-platform mobile development is a key area and one where there is no clear winner yet. It is a good opportunity for Adobe, though there is increasing competition from the products like Appcelerator Titanium and PhoneGap.

I also think that Embarcadero’s new RAD Studio XE2 will attract interest. This tool which will be released soon does native code compilation across Windows, Mac and Apple iOS, with Android promised, using the Delphi IDE and language.

Adobe Edge previewed: another step towards HTML 5

Adobe has released a preview of Edge, a new tool for creating animations in HTML 5, JavaScript and CSS3.

Edge is interesting on two levels. First, HTML 5 lacks strong design tools so a new tool from Adobe is welcome. Edge is a timeline-based tool for creating animations. You import elements such as images, or create text and graphic elements in the tool. Using the timeline, you create keyframes and specify effects. Here is the designer:


and you can view the output right here. This is one of Adobe’s samples, created by Sarah Hunt.


Under the covers Edge uses the JQuery JavaScript library. Here are the includes for this example:


and here are the transition effects on offer:


Edge is not complete yet.  A future update will add a JavaScript editor, making this more interesting for application developers. There will be a documented Edge library that will let you customise and I presume interact with the Edge output. One of the possibilities that interests me is data visualisation. Will Edge support this? Adobe is not yet saying, but it would be a natural move.

Adobe already has an HTML design tool, Dreamweaver. Why another one? Or put another way, why is Edge not a new designer for Dreamweaver rather than a new product in its own right?

This is an early preview, and all things are possible. However, Adobe has a tricky positioning task, given that Edge is encroaching on territory that used to belong to Flash, timeline-based animation. In its FAQ [PDF], Adobe distinguishes its products like this:

Product Sample use cases
Adobe Edge Preview 1 Advertising, simple animations and motion design for new compositions or using existing CSS-based page layouts
Adobe Dreamweaver Websites and web applications for desktops, smartphones, and other devices
Adobe Flash Professional Immersive interactive experiences, mobile applications, gaming, premium video, advertising
Adobe Flash Builder Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) and mobile applications

This table fails to mention what must be part of the core rationale for Edge, which is working on Apple iOS, the mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad that does not run Flash content. If you view the demo page above on the iPhone 4 or iPad 2, you will find that it works fine.

Adobe’s distinctions in the table above are not particularly clear. Leaving aside the relative merits of Flash and HTML 5 as technologies, a key question for developers and designers is one of reach. HTML 5 has a reach that extends to iOS and to other devices that do not run Flash in the browser. Flash has a reach that replaces browser-dependency with dependency on Adobe’s runtime, which can be a good thing.

Incidentally, I asked Adobe during a press briefing about mobile support and also browser requirements for Edge content, but there is no official statement on this yet.

Is Adobe moving away from Flash towards standards-based HTML tools? The purpose of a table like the one above is to insist that this is not the case and that Adobe will continue to support both. Nevertheless, Edge is a significant move. A gradual decline in Flash usage in favour of HTML 5 is not necessarily bad for Adobe. Designers will use the same Adobe tools to create content for Edge as they do for Flash.

What about Wallaby, another Adobe experimental project which exports Flash content to HTML, in effect making Flash Professional an HTML 5 authoring tool? Adobe says that Wallaby and Edge are separate projects and there is no plan to have Edge import Wallaby content. Still, you would have thought that, if Wallaby makes it into an official product, some compatibility is inevitable.


Edge demo on Apple iPhone 4

Adobe closes AIR Marketplace, InMarket

Adobe is giving up its efforts to support developers deploying to multiple app stores. The idea of InMarket,  announced at the Adobe MAX Conference in October 2010, was to be a one-stop distribution point for developers seeking to target multiple platforms. Adobe handled distribution and billing. The reason given:

After reviewing our efforts and based on feedback from developers, we have decided that we will deliver the most value by helping developers author and publish their apps on multiple platforms. Given this focus, we have decided to discontinue development and support of Adobe InMarket. We are going to continue to provide support for publishing to different app stores through our tooling. The recent Flash Builder 4.5 and Flash Professional CS5.5 provide support for publishing to multiple mobile platforms including Android and Apple iOS devices.

Adobe is not giving developers much time to adjust. The InMarket URL will terminate on August 31. This is causing some consternation:

I don’t understand how you expect publishers will be able to push an update to all the markets they publish to with enough time to get their user base to update before they’re totally screwed. One month? You do realize that even updates pushed to AppUp can take up to 2-weeks for vetting? This is crazy

That said, the low traffic on the InMarket forum is a clue to what Adobe is closing it down.

InMarket only supported Intel AppUp and AIR Marketplace, which rather misses the point of targeting multiple platforms. Had Adobe been able to offer instant deployment to all the key app stores, including Android Market and Apple’s iOS App Store, it would have been more attractive. Given the complexities of the approval process, it is not surprising that this was hard to achieve. A further complication is that Adobe’s AIR runtime is not allowed on iOS. Apps for iOS have to be packaged as native iOS apps.

What about AIR Marketplace?

When we established Adobe AIR Marketplace three years ago, there were few distribution opportunities for AIR developers. There are now several app stores on desktops, mobile devices and tablets that service AIR developers including Apple App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World, Intel AppUp center, Samsung Apps, and Toshiba App Place. We encourage you to use these newer popular app stores to distribute your applications.

This of course describes describes exactly the problem that InMarket was meant to address: the challenge of maintaining support for multiple app stores.

AIR Marketplace is still up and running at the time of writing, and seems to have more life than InMarket:


That said, why would any potential customer look specifically for AIR applications? It is a runtime and ideally should be invisible to the user. I was interested to see reference to AIR packagers for Windows, Mac and Android in a recent announcement, suggesting to me that Adobe is de-emphasising AIR as a runtime and making it into something more like a cross-platform development tool.

Wolfram announces Computable Document Format for interactive docs

Wolfram has announced the Computable Document Format (CDF), a document format that enables live computation to be embedded within it. “It’s a new way to communicate the world’s quantitative ideas much more richly than we have in the past, and in doing that a new kind of active document,” says  Conrad Wolfram, Strategic Director of Wolfram Research. That said, the technology here is not really new. There is a close relationship between CDF and Mathematica, Wollfram’s tool for creating mathematical calculations and simulations. The authoring tool for CDF is Mathematica:


The announcement then is really about a new player for Mathematica content and applications, to broaden their usage. The CDF player is free, though there are some limitations. If you charge for your document, or want to display it without the player chrome, then a paid licence is needed. A CDF document can also be compiled into a standalone executable, blurring the distinction between document and application.

The CDF player is available for Mac, Windows and Linux. There is also a browser plug-in for embedding CDF documents into web pages.

It is easy to find use cases for CDF. It is for documents where there is value in performing calculations or interacting with data within the page. An example is pension planning:


We have all seen those documents with a series of projections based on different assumptions about retirement age, contributions, investment growth and so on. This works better as an interactive chart where you can enter whatever values you like.

Other examples are statistical analysis and business intelligence, textbooks and course books where students can interact with equations and simulations, business proposals where you want to show how financial projections change based on different assumptions, or even general news reports where instead of a static chart you might want to show interactive graphics that let readers drill down into the data that interests them, or see real-time results.

Along with the computation engine, CDF supports a decent range of traditional content formatting features including cascading stylesheets.

Wolfram is correct in assuming that this kind of interactive document is important, and something we will increasingly take for granted in the era of the Web, eBooks and tablets. But can it succeed in establishing its own new document format when we already have HTML, Adobe PDF and Flash, Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, and other formats which are also capable of embedded interactive content?

That is a key question. Wolfram offers a table which claims to show the benefits of CDF versus competitors such as HTML and PDF, but it is as skewed as these tables usually are. Wolfram says a PDF document cannot be compiled as a standalone executable, for example, but a PDF in an Adobe AIR application comes close. It is also worth noting that you can embed Flash in PDF, which would be an obvious route to something like the pension planning document mentioned above.

Nevertheless, CDF does have advantages. In particular, it has Mathematica, and whereas authoring a Flash applet requires programming and design skills, Mathematica is more approachable presuming you have the necessary mathematical, scientific or financial skills; and if you do not, you should not be authoring the document. Mathematica will construct a user interface automatically. It also has a huge range of built-in algorithms, functions and charts. Wolfram claims that authoring a CDF should be within reach of anyone who can work with an Excel macro.

The challenge Wolfram faces is how to make CDF usable across a broad range of devices and clients. Having to install a player or plug-in is a considerable deterrent. PDF or better still HTML5 has broader reach and works on Google Android and Apple iOS as well as on desktop PCs.

I tried the CDF plugin and player on Windows 7 and encountered several issues. The plug-in does not play nicely with Internet Explorer’s Protected mode and I saw this dialog frequently:


I also had some issues with the player. I could not get an example document on Gulf Oil Spill Estimation to work:


The player is currently for Windows, Mac and Linux – what about Apple iOS? Wolfram says it is working on this, with a two-pronged approach. One idea is presumably based on some sort of app, I’d guess either a player if Apple allows it, or some way to compile a CDF into an app. The other idea is to render the interactive parts server-side, so you could use them in a web page without a plug-in. This second idea could also remove the need for a plug-in on the desktop. You will get a performance hit because of all those trips back and forth to the server, but this could be mitigated by high performance computing on the server that will perform calculations more quickly than your client.

I can see CDF being popular within its niche, but whether it can transition into being a mass-market format I am not sure. Established plug-ins and runtimes such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Java on the client are all under pressure, particularly as Apple’s iOS spreads its reach; it is not a good moment to launch a new format that has a plug-in or runtime dependency. I wonder if Wolfram is exploring the possibility of compilation to HTML5 and JavaScript?

Despite these reservations, the broader vision behind CDF seems to me spot-on. There are many cases where we currently see static charts, that would be better served by an embedded computation engine.

IE9 ActiveX Filtering causing tears of frustration

I have been assisting a friend who, she told me, could not get BBC iPlayer to work. Further, another site was telling her she did not have ActiveX, but she was sure she had it.

This was puzzling me. She described how she went to the BBC iPlayer site, and it said she needed to install Flash.


She clicked the link and got to Adobe’s download site. She clicked Download now and got a page describing four steps to install, but nothing happened, no download.

She clicked Adobe’s troubleshooting guide, which took her through uninstalling Flash Player and then a manual download. All seemed to work but at the end of it, it was the same. Go to the BBC site, and be told to install Flash Player.

You can understand how computers, at times, can seem downright hostile to the long-suffering user.

What was the problem? I logged on with remote assistance. Somehow, IE9 had ActiveX Filtering enabled.


This is actually a great security feature. ActiveX is disabled on all sites by default. A little blue circle symbol appears at top right.


Click this symbol and you can turn off filtering for this site only.


Yes, great feature, once you are aware of it – but too subtle to be noticed by the average user browsing the web. From the user’s perspective, no amount of uninstalling and reinstalling of Flash Player would fix it, and the PC was about to be flung across the room in frustration.

The other problem is that the feature is too new and too little used to feature in most of the troubleshooting guides out there. It is not mentioned in Adobe’s page on troubleshooting Flash on Windows and in IE, for example.

How the setting got enabled in the first place is a mystery. Maybe a mis-click. It is unchecked by default, and you can see why.

Conclusions? I guess it shows that security without usability is ineffective; and that minimalist user interfaces can work against you if they in effect hide important information from the user.

Incidentally, this is why  I dislike the Windows 7 feature that hides notification icons by default. It is user-hostile and I advise disabling it by ticking Always shot all icons and notifications on the taskbar.

It may be more secure, but I would not consider enabling ActiveX Filtering for non-technical users.

Cross-platform concerns as Adobe abandons AIR for Linux

Adobe is giving up on AIR for Linux – at least, in a fully supported manner:

To support the variety of Linux-based platforms across PCs and devices, we are prioritizing a Linux porting kit for AIR (including source code), which Open Screen Project (OSP) partners can use to complete implementations of AIR for Linux-based platforms on PCs, mobile devices, TVs and TV-connected devices. We will no longer be releasing our own versions of Adobe AIR and the AIR SDK for desktop Linux, but expect that one or more of our partners will do so. The last Adobe release of AIR for desktop Linux is AIR 2.6.

This is a curious message. OSP partners include ARM, Intel, the BBC, Google, Toshiba and other big names; but which of these might build an AIR SDK and on what sort of terms might it be supplied? Or it is more likely that, say, the BBC will deliver BBC iPlayer for LInux in a bundle that includes the AIR runtime? Or is it just wishful thinking?

Adobe’s open source evangelist Dave McAllister has a go at defending the decision, pointing out that the growing client operating systems are Android and iOS, not desktop Linux, and that AIR for Linux accounts for only a 0.5% download share. However, Linux developers observe that Adobe’s AIR for Linux effort has always been half-hearted and tricky to install, especially on 64-bit installations. AIR itself is still 32-bit, as is the Flash Player on all systems, though there is 64-bit version in preview codenamed “Square”.

Most people run Windows or Mac desktops, and will not miss AIR for Linux. That said, decisions like this do undermine confidence in the Flash platform as a cross-platform proposition. The problem is, Flash technology is not open source and ultimately whether a particular platform is supported is a matter for Adobe, with all the commercial and political factors that implies.

The risk for Adobe is that when it abandons smaller platforms, it make open standard alternatives and in particular the collection of web technologies we call HTML5 more attractive.

Windows Phone “Mango” shown, looks good but still no Adobe Flash

I attended the London press briefing for Windows Phone “Mango”, also known as Windows Phone 7.1. This will be on new phones in the Autumn, and will be a free update for all existing Windows Phone 7 devices.


Microsoft showed a bunch of new features, including Internet Explorer 9 – which, we were told, is built from the same code as the PC version – improved social media integration now including Twitter and LinkedIn as well as Facebook, Hotmail, Exchange, Messenger and Gmail; and multi-tasking support.

Hold down the back key for a moment, and all running apps appear in a tiled view. Just tap the one you want.

We also saw text-to-voice and voice-to-text demos. The presented spoke the reply to a text message, though admittedly he chose to do a one-word reply, and sent it successfully.

Microsoft also announced three new OEM partners, Acer Inc., Fujitsu Ltd. and ZTE Corp.

It looks good; but I did have a sense that Microsoft is ducking the hard questions. One of those concerns Adobe Flash support. At a separate developer briefing, I asked developer relations guy Brandon Watson about Adobe Flash support, observing that when Windows Phone was shown in detail pre-launch at the Mix 2009 conference in Las Vegas, it was clearly stated that Flash would be on the phone, and that Adobe was being allowed to build the Flash runtime in native code, but that it would not be included at launch.

“It does not run on the phone”, said Watson. Then he added, “It does not run on the phone.” Finally, he said, “It does not run on the phone.”

Silverlight does not run in the mobile browser either, so perhaps the problem is with mobile IE – clearly not all the code is included. Or maybe Adobe is hanging back; I asked Adobe about this at Mobile World Congress earlier this year and got an answer that was warmer but no more informative. Or maybe Microsoft is thinking, Apple does not need it, so we do not need it either.

It is a shame though, because there is a perception that Flash is one of the advantages of not going the Apple route.

On the developer side, the beta tools for Mango were released today. You can target either Windows Phone 7.0 or 7.1 with the tools, so if the beta tag does not put you off you can get going straight away. There is a ton of good stuff for developers, including the SQL Server CE local database, and the ability to mix XNA and Silverlight in a single app. We saw an app from British Airways that makes use of this to show a 3D view of an aircraft cabin when choosing a seat; I am not sure how much real value this adds but it demos nicely.

The new emulator includes accelerometer support, so you can simulate movement to test your app’s response.

There is also a profiler which shows your app’s performance in various views. Code that you wrote is highlighted in blue in the graphical view, so you can tell what you can optimise, as opposed to slow system calls that are outside your control.

The developer tools are great though, and having played with a number of mobile developer toolkits I would say that Microsoft’s is among the best and above average, though I would like to see an option for native code development. “We hear that a lot,” Watson told me.

The problem though: developers want a big market, and so far Windows Phone has not delivered it. It is almost invisible on the high street, and all the current operators and manufacturers have other phones that they are more concerned about. That will change when Nokia devices appear, but in an intensively competitive market (not forgetting HP WebOS and RIM Blackberry/QNX/PlayBook) it will not be easy for Microsoft to gain ground.

After the event I discussed this with some of the Microsoft folk. Maybe the company can better exploit the Xbox link, and sell the phone to that community. Maybe Nokia will save the day. Maybe when Microsoft comes out with a fully professional iteration of Windows Phone, tightly linked to Active Directory and group policy, and with additional developer features aimed at line of business apps, maybe then it will take off.

One positive thing I heard today was an anecdotal report that returns on Windows Phone 7 are among the lowest because users like the device so much.

The social features in Windows Phone are already good and will be better in Mango – though bear in mind that by the time Mango phones appear in the Autumn, Microsoft will likely have iPhone 5 and many tempting new Android devices to contend with.

Years ago it used to be said that Microsoft had average products (or worse) but excellent marketing. With Windows Phone, the product is good but either the marketing is lacking or the task is too great. Of course there is still time, and this industry is full of surprises, but it will take more than Mango to make Windows Phone fly.