It hasn't even been 12 months since multiple manufacturers were positioning Adobe Flash support as a centerpiece of their tablet strategies. Flash, we were told, was required for a "full Internet experience," and vital to the presentation of rich content. Today, Adobe dropped a bombshell. From this point forward, "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." Adobe will continue to provide bug fixes and security updates for all versions of Flash across all products; Flash licensees are free to continue working on their own implementations as well.
Adobe's justification for the move is that HTML5
"is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms." Various pundits have trotted out technical explanations for why Flash is a terrible solution that deserves to be shot at dawn and buried—possibly next to all those ET cartridges Atari dumped in the desert. The real reason Adobe has pulled out from the market, however, has less to do with emotional reactions and more to do with market realities.
has defined the nascent tablet market, and the iPad doesn't have Flash. That's it. Flash's current mobile flavors have problems, but you don't quit and walk away from an entire market because your early products have issues. A year ago, Adobe and its partners were aggressively arguing that website developers who wanted to provide rich media to tablet users should rely on Flash to do so, just as they'd done in order to reach the desktop/laptop segments. The only way that strategy would work long-term is if Flash-equipped tablets actually gained traction. They didn't. Worse, they failed so completely, Adobe can't even justify its own participation as a second string or alternative option.
That whole "Web Without Limits" idea didn't exactly catch on -- and it's not just the PlayBook's fault.
had begun to catch in tablets, Adobe could've argued that it provided various improvements and capabilities that HTML5 couldn't match. Instead, the focus is now on developing content that can be viewed across an entire spectrum of devices without the need for bifurcated delivery systems or custom content. Killing Mobile Flash is essentially the same as killing it period—it'll just take longer. If Flash can't go everywhere, why should it go anywhere?
Thus far, Adobe is claiming that the desktop/notebook version of Flash will continue to see use as a delivery platform for high-end games and premium video. The company has already hinted that these features may eventually be absorbed by the new standard, however, writing: "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. We are super excited about the next generations of HTML5 and Flash. Together they offer developers and content publishers great options for delivering compelling web and application experiences across PCs and devices."