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Adobe Halts Development on Mobile Flash

I don’t think he was ever confused about what to do about the whole dustup between Apple and Adobe over Flash in iOS, but somewhere Steve Jobs is smiling, now that Adobe has officially halted development on the mobile version of Flash. In a blog post, Adobe Vice President and General Manager of Interactive Development Danny Winokur wrote:

“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.”

This follows a several-year fight with Apple, which refused to allow Flash on iOS, famously resulting in Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash” letter. In that piece, Jobs lays out Apple’s reasons for avoiding Flash, pointing out that Flash has security, reliability, and performance problems that are troublesome on a desktop computer, but even more concerning on a mobile device. Other notable concerns included a significant reduction in battery life, the fact that many Flash-based sites wouldn’t work properly in a touch-based environment, and Apple’s strategic desire for native iOS apps rather than cross-platform ports.

For users, the dispute was always annoying, since it largely came down to Apple saying “The Flash experience on iOS would be unacceptable” and Adobe saying, “No, it would be fine.” Both companies were trying to promote their respective self-interests — the entire iOS approach to the world in Apple’s case, and Adobe’s hope that Flash could be the underpinning of an increasingly interactive Web. Despite the widespread adoption of Flash and a non-trivial level of outcry from iOS users, Apple stuck to its story and won the day — Adobe’s achievement of putting Flash on Android-based smartphones and tablets (at varying levels of performance) wasn’t enough to overcome Apple’s intransigence.

What can never be known is what Flash’s future would have been if Apple had allowed it on iOS. It’s possible that Apple’s refusal was causal in Flash’s mobile demise — that Flash would have survived and thrived with Apple’s support — but it’s equally possible that Apple was merely prescient and suspected that Flash couldn’t make the architectural and conceptual leap from the mouse-based computer to the touch-based mobile device.

More clear, though, is that Flash in general is on the wane, though Adobe of course disagrees. I don’t believe Flash will go away any time soon, of course, but given that an ever-increasing amount of Internet usage takes place on mobile devices, Adobe’s reversal in that field means that Web designers will start choosing HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, H.264, and other open standards over Flash for interactive content and video. And where the Web designers go, Adobe will follow.


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Comments about Adobe Halts Development on Mobile Flash
(Comments are closed.)

David Weintraub  2011-11-10 04:59
Without iOS, Flash is dead. The big advantage of Flash is that it is ubiquitous. Without it on iOS, it means web page designers know there's a large chunk of people who don't have Flash and thus can't view their webpage. It was a move only Apple could have pulled off. If another company tried to get away from Flash, their products wouldn't have sold. Apple's products were so good that people ignored the whole Flash issue.
S Mulji  2011-11-10 08:08
With the market share that Androido command which, correct me if I'm wrong, is about twice iOS' market share, they could've said to hell with Flash.

Google has enough clout to influence the market in that manner but they had no guts to make the move.

That's the beauty of Apple under SJ's leadership. Even with no cellphone market share in 2007, they had the guts to make the big decision and drive the market.

I hope the current team does the same. It's part of what makes Apple fun to watch.
Android's the phone of choice among people who won't pay for a cell phone, and the specs on those devices are insanely bad. Those market share numbers include phones like the old HTC Hero, which was barely capable of running the OS. The percentage of Android handsets capable of running Flash effectively is likely 10% or less.

No, what killed off Flash-on-mobile was the fact that nobody wants to browse for, and then format on their phone's view window, heterogenous application content. They want contained, platform targeted apps for everything, even stuff they could get on the web.

Apps are easy to enter, easy to exit, easy to find and easy to use. Flash, on mobile, on the best Android machines like the Galaxy tabs, is still none of these.
John Maliga  2011-11-15 07:56
Though Apple and Steve Jobs refused to allow Flash, mobile Flash never worked on mobile for at least three reasons: 1) it had no credible touch interface to match its browser and cursor model on the desktop; 2) it required access to the GPU or other chipset hardware that significantly degraded battery life; 3) its necessary access to the GPU and software subroutines made it a security threat, above and beyond bugs in its own code.

I disagree that Flash has a place in the future of the web. If developers can't provide Flash solutions accross platforms, they'll choose HTML and CSS3 solutions that work for everyone.

We can talk about "open" technologies, but that's exactly what Flash isn't. For all the walled garden that Apple IOS is, you can still play in the sandbox with HTML and CSS3, and expect that you can have a version that works on multiple platforms, desktops, and OSs.
Dennis B. Swaney  2011-11-15 16:29
Last night, the President of my user group told me that he'd read that the desktop version of Flash is also to have development stopped down the line. An Adobe engineer let that slip in an interview, saying that HTML5 is replacing Flash faster than thought.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-11-15 20:08
Whoa, can you track down a reference to that? Everything I've seen has had Adobe staunchly defending Flash on the desktop (much as I believe the writing is on the wall).