Adobe abandoning Flash for mobile devices opens door to HTML5

By: Ted Kritsonis

November 10, 2011

Adobe’s announcement yesterday that it would no longer support Flash in mobile devices after version 11.1 is a bold move that opens the door for HTML5 as the new standard for rich web content on smartphones and tablets.

What this means is that Adobe will focus its Flash efforts purely towards computers, and move fully towards developing HTML5 forward with the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft and RIM for the sake of speedy uniformity. In the meantime, Adobe says it will continue to fix bugs and patch security holes for mobile Flash, but no new versions will be coming down the pipe.

The move is also a sombre admission for Adobe, who had championed the cause for Flash in mobile devices in a public spat with the late Steve Jobs at Apple.

At the time, Jobs had this to say:

“Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short. The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content… New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”

Was Jobs right? All indications suggest he was. Flash may have been readily available on Android devices and RIM’s PlayBook tablet, but it’s proven buggy and not necessarily conducive to touch interfaces, as he pointed out. There was also no real way to filter content, so pornography and other discretionary content running on Flash could be accessed easily.

Additionally, the sheer number of iOS devices out there — not running Flash, of course — leaves a gaping hole of the market that Adobe hasn’t been able to tap. Even with Jobs no longer in the CEO’s chair, Apple wasn’t going to budge on this one.

But abandoning Flash will probably be a good long-term strategy for Adobe, and a big win for consumers who will be able to better control how they view and interact with rich content on mobile browsers and apps through HTML5.

One of the key advantages HTML5 has is that it is actually part of a web browser, rather than a plug-in like Flash is. This, along with other factors involving Javascript, ostensibly makes crashes less likely to happen.

And it’s worth noting that it will be business as usual for mobile devices that support Flash, albeit with no future development to add more functionality or compatibility to the platform. For some, that may be an issue, but most casual consumers are not likely to notice.

Not only that, but development of Flash 12 for desktops and laptops is running along as scheduled, so nothing changes there, either. Plus, it only makes sense that Adobe will launch the necessary tools to convert or port any Flash-based content over to HTML5, thereby streamlining the process further.

So, while Flash may be a stagnant platform on mobile devices now, it will still take a good amount of time for HTML5 to fully replace Flash on every type of device.

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