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?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.