Adobe Killing Flash Mobile Development

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-11-09
 
 
 

After announcing plans to restructure and lay off 750 employees, Adobe has followed up with news of plans to shut down its work on the mobile version of its Flash Player.

According to a report first seen on ZDNet, Adobe told developer partners of its plans to stop development of its Flash mobile browser plug-in technology. There is a bit of irony in the news of Adobe halting Flash for mobile development, as another ZDNet report indicates that Microsoft may soon be ending the life of Flash rival technology Silverlight.

According to the Flash report, Adobe sent a notice out to developers saying:

"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."

Walter Luh, CEO and co-founder of Ansca and former lead architect of Flash Lite at Adobe, told eWEEK: "It's pretty clear that Adobe was becoming increasingly irrelevant in the mobile space. Flash just wasn't getting traction. So they had to do something. That something was embracing HTML5 and doing what Adobe does best: create the best tools on the planet for creative professionals. The irony, of course, is one of the main reasons Adobe acquired Macromedia was because of Flash and the opportunity to play a dominant role in mobile content."

Indeed, Luh said he is not surprised at Adobe's decision to abandon Flash mobile development, particularly after watching the keynotes at Adobe's MAX 2011 conference. Luh said in previous years, Flash was king. "But this year, Flash was treated as an afterthought, and instead, HTML5 was front and center-with new tools focused on the latter like Adobe Edge," he said.

Back when Luh was at Adobe from 2005-2007, he said he saw two main problems for Flash in the context of mobile that Adobe failed to address: "The first was legacy technology. They had the opportunity to invest in building the next-generation foundation for Flash very early on, but didn't read the hardware trends correctly. Instead of making a bet on smartphones, they focused on [at the time] the mass-market feature phones. The second was ignoring developers.  A lot of the early mobile Flash developers wanted to create stand-alone apps, but Adobe wanted to build a mobile platform, so they focused on trying to get distribution of their Web plug-in on mobile phones. There was an impedance mismatch and Adobe just took too long to come to the right conclusions."

Luh and Ansca co-founder Carlos Icaza left Adobe in 2007 and started Ansca Mobile, which produces the Corona SDK for mobile app development, after Adobe refused to overhaul Flash for the then-looming smartphone platform, he said.

For its part, in announcing its plans to restructure, Adobe officials said the company will focus on two primary markets: digital media and digital marketing. In digital media, the company is an industry leader in content authoring solutions, enabling customers to create, distribute and monetize digital content. In digital marketing, the company intends to be the leader in solutions to manage, measure and optimize digital marketing and advertising, Adobe officials said.

Adobe's digital media growth strategy revolves around its recently announced Creative Cloud and will enable the company to rapidly deliver new product capabilities and services, penetrate untapped market segments, and increase overall engagement with customers, the company said. 


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