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Flash's World Gets a Little Lonelier

Flash's World Gets a Little Lonelier

When Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 appears on tablet devices, the Metro version of its browser won't be doing so in the company of plug-ins -- not even Flash, one of the most popular browser plug-ins ever. While Flash will still have a home in other parts of the OS, Metro IE's shunning follows moves from companies like Apple, which has also banished Flash from its mobile platform.

By Richard Adhikari
09/15/11 2:47 PM PT

Adobe is putting on a brave face in the wake of Microsoft's announcement Tuesday that the Metro version of Internet Explorer in Windows 8 -- the one intended for tablets -- will eschew plug-ins like Flash and instead use HTML 5.

"We are excited about the innovation and opportunities that are available to our customers and Adobe as the Web and platforms evolve across devices, including Windows 8 and Metro," Adobe's Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager for platform, told TechNewsWorld.

"We expect Windows desktop to continue to be extremely popular for years to come and that it will support Flash just fine, including rich Web-based games and premium videos that require Flash," Winokur said.

"In addition, we expect Flash-based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the way they are on Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS today," Winokur added.

However, "with mobile form factors now exceeding sales of desktops and laptops and Flash not being widely embraced within mobile, it certainly doesn't paint a rosy picture for the future of Flash," remarked Mike Ricci, vice president of mobile at Webtrends.

"I just don't see a viable scenario whereby Flash survives in the long run," Ricci told TechNewsWorld.

"Flash is trending out," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said. "Apple doesn't like it, Google doesn't like it, and now Microsoft doesn't like it."

The problem with Flash, as Apple has discovered, is that it makes too many demands on both processor power and battery power to work well on mobile devices, said Carl Howe, a research director at the Yankee Group.

"Using Flash on a mobile device is a bit like putting a snowplow on your Prius. It's good in theory, but without a more powerful platform, you spend all your time spinning your wheels," Howe told TechNewsWorld.

So what will happen to existing websites and Web apps? Will their developers have to scramble to make changes?

The Race Goes to the Swift

"Standards-based Web developers have for years been telling commercial sites using Flash that they were breaking the Internet," the Yankee Group's Howe pointed out.

"Flash violates many of the fundamental principles of today's open Web, including searchability, structuring of content, and the ability to bookmark where you are," Howe added.

In other words, the move toward Web 2.0 is at least partly to blame for Flash's troubles.

Developers, at least in the mobile area, have apparently heeded the warning signs.

"Mobile developers have largely stayed away from Flash, so they are likely feeling validated by what's happened recently," Webtrends' Ricci said.

Microsoft's move away from Flash toward HTML 5 in Windows 8 should not have surprised Windows devs either.

Back in August, Microsoft indicated it would move away from browser plug-ins and toward HTML 5, and it named Adobe Flash as one of the most common plug-ins.

The Impact on Flash Fans

Companies that adopted Flash "will have to rebuild their sites in different ways or buy Adobe tools that convert them to a more Web-friendly environment," Howe remarked.

There's "a pretty good installed base of websites out there that use Flash, and they're going to move to HTML 5," William Stofega, a program director at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. "They're not going to switch overnight, but they will switch."

Adobe has introduced tools that provide a workaround to this problem.

For example, last week, Adobe announced Flash Media Server 4.5, which lets publishers create HTTP content with Flash Media Server 4.5 and push it to iDevices.

Flash Media Server 4.5 renders the stream instead of relying on a device's processor to do this work, reducing demands on battery and processor power.

Back in July, Adobe released Adobe Edge in preview. Edge is a Web motion and interaction design tool that lets designers bring animated content to websites using HTML 5, JavaScript and CSS3.

Further, the company is working closely with Microsoft, Google, Apple and others to drive innovation in HTML 5, Adobe's Winokur said.

Keeping the Hope Alive

That cooperation is essential if Adobe is to remain a player.

"Flash is looking like a legacy technology Visit the VMware Tech Center, and unless it gets support from Google, Apple and Microsoft, it's hard to see how they'll hold the line," Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

"Adobe's premise is based on the fact that they own and control Flash, but they don't own and control HTML 5," Enderle added.


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