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Adobe Sends Mobile Flash Packing

Adobe Sends Mobile Flash Packing

Adobe has decided to end development of the mobile version of its Flash player, instead focusing on HTML5. Flash for the desktop will continue. Although some platforms like Android used their support of mobile Flash as a selling point, market pressures in other directions are high. "HTML5 is coming on strong as a standard, accelerated by the speed of change of hardware devices," IDC's Al Hilwa said.

By Richard Adhikari
11/09/11 12:04 PM PT

Adobe announced on Wednesday that it would no longer continue to develop Flash Player for mobile devices after the release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and the BlackBerry PlayBook.

It will instead switch to HTML5 for mobile devices.

Adobe will continue supporting Flash Player for existing device configurations, provide critical bug fixes and security updates, and enable Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe Air for the major app stores.

Where Flash Will Go Next

The company will focus on using Flash where it will have the most impact, in areas such as advanced gaming and premium video.

Adobe's already working on Flash Player 12, which targets these platforms, and is incorporating new features into it that will deliver high-definition entertainment experiences, the company said.

Adobe will work on bringing similar capabilities to HTML5, and it will design new features in Flash for a smooth transition to HTML5 as the standards evolve.

The Last Bastion for Flash

"On the desktop, the need for a Flash browser plugin continues," Al Hilwa, a research director at IDC, pointed out.

"We don't expect 90 percent of desktop browsers to be capable of HTML5 until 2015, so the differentiation that Flash provides in high-end graphics and video protection continues, and Adobe will continue to invest in it," Hilwa told TechNewsWorld.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Adobe's switch to HTML5 from Flash could prove to be a smart decision.

"Adobe is smart to let go, though it's leaving the choice in hardware makers' hands as to delivering future updates to the Flash browser plugin beyond version 11.1," IDC's Hilwa remarked.

"I expect [the BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile platforms] to quickly move away from promoting their Flash support given this announcement, said Eric Leland, a partner at FivePaths.

When contacted for further comment, Adobe spokesperson Melissa Chanslor pointed TechNewsWorld to the company's official blog.

The Tyranny of the Majority

Supporting HTML5 on mobile devices instead of Flash Player was forced upon Adobe by overwhelming market pressure.

"HTML5 is coming on strong as a standard, accelerated by the speed of change of hardware devices," IDC's Hilwa pointed out.

"Apple doesn't like [Flash], Google doesn't like it, and Microsoft doesn't like it, and it's looking like a legacy technology," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld in a previous interview.

Microsoft announced earlier this year that it won't support Flash in its Metro user interface for the tablet version of Windows 8.

"By 2013, we'll reach a point where 90 percent of smartphones and tablets will sport HTML5-capable browsers," IDC's Hilwa stated. "In this light, having a large cadre of staff working on putting Flash on every mobile device on the planet appears to be unnecessary and an unwise use of resources."

Sneaking Toward HTML5

After initially pooh-poohing HTML5, Adobe conceded that it could coexist with Flash, and has released several HTML5-related tools and apps.

These include a beta of Adobe Expressive Web, a site that highlights and provides information on HTML5 and CSS3 features in Flash.

In October, Adobe released its Edge 3 preview, a motion and interaction design tool for HTML5.

In March, Adobe released its Wallaby Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool.

What About Flash Devs?

Adobe has pledged to design new features in Flash for a smooth transition to HTML5 as the latter evolves so they can continue to leverage their skill sets.

"Developers don't want to maintain skills in multiple platforms, and will want to go with the winning horse in the race," FivePaths' Leland told TechNewsWorld.

Developers and Web designers "should be looking closely at [HTML5 in new releases of Adobe products] for their projects going forward," Leland suggested.


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