Adobe Abandons Flash on Mobile Devices

Steve Jobs’ influence did not end with his untimely death. Adobe has announced they are abandoning further development of the Flash platform on mobile devices. The news, first revealed by ZDNet, includes the following statement:

Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.

Adobe will refocus development efforts on AIR and HTML5 applications.

Apple and Jobs were scathing about Flash’s failings. The plugin was accused of being buggy, causing security issues and draining mobile batteries. I’m not a Flash developer, but Jobs’ comments about it being a closed proprietary system seemed particularly hypocritical.

Whether Apple was protecting users or their own market interests doesn’t matter. As a technology, Flash was never ideal for low-powered mobile platforms. Adobe’s plugin had its problems, but it was surprising they made it work on any mobile device.

Ironically, the latest modern smartphones and tablets should be powerful enough to run Flash. However, is it commercially viable to create multiple versions of the plugin for different devices when Adobe are unable to tap into Apple’s sector?

So does this announcement mark the beginning of the end for Flash? This decision must have been difficult but rumors of Flash’s death are premature. HTML5 offers an alternative, but user demand for cross-platform (desktop) videos, games and interactive applications are likely to keep Flash around for many years. But, if you’re developing mobile applications, HTML5 has suddenly become a far more attractive proposition.

Were you surprised by Adobe’s announcement? Does it affect your current development plans?

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  • http://logic52.com Shane

    I’m stunned to be honest, although AIR still keeps them in the game. It seems with tools like Wallaby and Muse, Flash will die out much quicker.

  • EastCoast

    Surprising considering android’s supremacy in percentage of the smartphone market and the importance of the mobile market, how well it worked within the restrictions of low powered devices, and that the feature is often touted as an advantage – can’t see the manufacturers who have used it in marketing being particularly pleased. Having said that it must be a substantial resource drain relative to the pace and scope of desktop implementations (I gather there have been major lay-offs at Adobe on the back of this).

    From a development perspective, if it allows resources to be channelled into creating a better flash/flex->ios/android native app pipeline then this is a good thing – many developers don’t even know this is possible now, despite some of the top selling games in Apple’s app store being made in flash.

    For me it doesn’t affect what I would use flash for on a desktop browser – complicated media/interactive devices and games experiences that couldn’t be done cross platform with a sensible ROI if they were attempted in html5/javascript. I wouldn’t expect this kind of thing to run in a mobile browser anyway, so there’s not much change from a deployment perspective.

  • http://www.swickmultimedia.com SwickMultimedia

    I can’t say I’m “surprised” about this announcement. Flash has been unavailable and/or difficult to use in the mobile browser ever since mobile platforms had browsers. With Apple not supporting plug-ins from the beginning, and Microsoft following their lead, it would make sense for Adobe to pull Flash support for the mobile browser… even though I agree with this article when saying “Ironically, the latest modern smartphones and tablets should be powerful enough to run Flash.”
    I am definitely disappointed, though, being a Flash/Flex developer myself. Not because it is “the end”, because it certainly isn’t. I am disappointed because of the repercussions this has for Flash’s reputation. I keep seeing people writing things like “Flash is dead” and “Adobe pulls Flash on mobile” but both are misconceptions. Here are a few thoughts:
    1. Flash itself is not dead. As a matter of fact, not much has changed for the Flash platform. The Flash player is still around and will continue to be developed for the desktop browser.
    2. Adobe is continuing development for Adobe Air, which allows Flash applications to be published on mobile devices. The only difference is that the player will no longer be developed for the mobile browser in the future. This is a good call in my opinion because Flash was never really meant to be used this way in the first place.
    3. Mobile browsers for iOS and Windows Mobile do not support ANY plugins at all. This not only includes Flash, but Java, Silverlight and Quicktime as well. Flash has just been the most public because of the controversy that has sprung up as a result… and who doesn’t love a good controversy?
    Although this may be a rocky point in the history of Flash, it could mean a new beginning for the platform. It seems as if Adobe is (and has been) refocusing their vision for Flash as being less of a plugin for browsers and more of an enterprise application solution by utilizing Adobe Air. I am optimistic about the future, but I would be lying if I said this hasn’t shaken my faith in Adobe a little bit.

  • PetitPaul

    What you failed to admit, is maybe Apple was right in the first place, like it was on many instances, though they may have their misses. You said it yourself: Modern mobile devices should be powerful enough to run Flash. Meaning, Flash needs alot of power, and alot of power means alot of energy, and alot of energy is drying your batteries out. Point made. And also, who says games and vids should necessarily be made available through your web browser into a Flash PlugIn? Maybe Flash was just an easy way to do it for people who really can’t build real professional applications? Good bye Flash. Adobe bought it, couldn’t make it right, and now it’s bye bye. Really, I wont miss it…

    • EastCoast

      It’s unfortunate that the myth about flash being power hungry on mobile still persists amongst the uninformed (there was a fairly thorough independent study done that shows in general it has little impact on battery, and that similar html5 is far worse). The point of its existence is choice, you could take it or leave it as required, where as the likes of Apple don’t want you to have a choice, they want to dictate how you consume media. For what it’s worth, I have it on an HTC mobile and it works great, and is handy on many occasions and will continue to be so for the lifetime of the device. There’s plenty times on my ipad that it’s annoying that it’s not there.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        Well said, EastCoast.

        Flash runs on my antiquated Nokia so it shouldn’t be a problem for a modern iPhone. Besides, of Apple was really concerned about battery life and stability, they could start by banning “Angry Birds”.

        Apple’s seal of “quality assurance” may attract some users to the iPhone but I have a problem with any vendor who restricts or censors the software/content I want to use. So what if it’s buggy and drains the battery — that’s my prerogative.