Why Adobe Pulled the Plug on Flash Mobile

Adobe kills its Flash for mobile development effort and offers an explanation in a blog post. But Adobe fails to discuss the impact of Apple's ban.

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Adobe explained the thinking behind its move to kill Flash for mobile platforms, essentially saying that HTML5 is where developers should focus instead of Flash on mobile.

In a Nov. 9 blog post, Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager of interactive development at Adobe, said over the past two years Adobe has delivered Flash Player for mobile browsers and brought the full expressiveness of the Web to many mobile devices.

"However, HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," Winokur said. "This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms. We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."

Moreover, Winokur added:

""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 continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook. We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations.""

According to Winokur, these changes will enable Adobe to increase its investment in HTML5 and continue to innovate with Flash. At its Adobe MAX 2011 conference, Adobe indicated that the Flash Player would be focused heavily on advanced gaming and premium video. At MAX, Adobe said Flash Player 11 introduced dozens of new features, including hardware accelerated 3D graphics for console-quality gaming and premium HD video with content protection.

Meanwhile, Winokur said Adobe already is working on Flash Player 12 and a new round of features to advance the delivery of high definition entertainment experiences.

"We will continue to leverage our experience with Flash to accelerate our work with the W3C and WebKit to bring similar capabilities to HTML5 as quickly as possible, just as we have done with CSS Shaders," he said. "And, we will design new features in Flash for a smooth transition to HTML5 as the standards evolve so developers can confidently invest knowing their skills will continue to be leveraged."

During Adobe's Financial Analyst Meeting on Nov. 9 in New York, David Wadhwani, vice president of senior vice president and general manager of Digital Media at Adobe, said for mobile, Adobe's customers say they are more comfortable using HTML5 than Flash.

"HTML5 is the most important format to come along in a decade," Wadhwani said, noting that HTML5 is significant because it can eliminate fragmentation across different platforms including PCs, devices, phones, TVs, browsers and tablets. "HTML5 is a significant catalyst for growth for Adobe," he added. It represents a multi-year opportunity and "it gives us a long runway; many, many years of innovation."

Yet, in all of what Wadhwani said to financial analysts and Winokur said in his post, they both fail to mention the impact of Apple. Apple's decision not to support Flash has had a dramatic impact on Flash for mobile.

With that in mind, not everybody is happy about Adobe's latest move with Flash on mobile. Commenting on Winokur's post, Mike Vitale, vice president of operations at TalkPoint Communications, wrote:

""This is a poor decision by Adobe. Despite all the negative press about Flash on mobile devices most content distributors are very content to deliver live audio and video in Flash. In most cases we only fall back on html 5 to support iOS devices using HLS streaming. The current functionality of html 5 is simply not on par with Actionscript.This announcement is going to scare content creators and force distributors to look for alternatives to Flash streaming. With such a dominant footprint on PC's and Android devices why would you quit to become just another provider of app creation software?Sites like Techcrunch and CNN are already picking up this post and raking Adobe over the coals. Stop letting Apple back the bus up over you and fight back. Do not stop developing Flash for mobile devices!""