Adobe Drops Flash for Mobile Devices

Up in iHeaven, Steve Jobs must be chuckling. Adobe announced Wednesday that it will end development and support for mobile Flash, in favor of HTML5 technologies.

In an announcement on its Adobe Blogs, Interactive Development Vice President and General Manager Danny Winokur wrote that his company "will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work on new mobile device configurations," after the coming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android devices and BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet.

HTML5 'The Best Solution'

Instead, he said, "our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores." Winokur added that the company will continue to support existing device configurations with bug fixes and security updates, and that current licensees can continue developing and releasing their own Flash products.

In his statement, Winokur noted that HTML5 is now supported on all major mobile devices, "in some cases exclusively" -- a reference to Apple's devices, where Apple CEO and co-founder Jobs decreed that HTML5 was superior to Flash. HTML5, he added, is "the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across multiple platforms."

The company is continuing to invest in Flash development for Macs and PCs, and in the next Flash Player. It is not yet clear if Adobe's dropping mobile Flash is related to its recent decision to lay off 750 employees.

In April 2010, Jobs posted a note on the Apple Web site titled "Thoughts on Flash." He noted that Apple and Adobe go way back, to their garage origins, and that Adobe's PostScript was adopted for Apple's Laserwriter printer, making the computer company Adobe's first big customer.

Jobs: Create 'Great HTML5 Tools'

In explaining why he did not want to allow Flash to be fully implemented on iPhones, iPods and iPads, Jobs said the decision was technological, not an attempt to protect its App Store.

The technological reasons, Jobs wrote, included that Flash was proprietary, not open. Although it has many proprietary products of its own, Jobs said, Apple's position was that all Web standards should be open, which was a key reason that it preferred HTML5, CSS, and Javascript to Flash.

Other reasons for his position on Flash included the security, reliability, performance and battery life issues that he said the technology has in its mobile implementation, the lack of support for touch-based interfaces, and the fact that development capabilities are defined by only one source, Adobe.

"Perhaps," he finished his manifesto, "Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind."

Adobe 'A Tools Vendor'

Current Analysis' Avi Greengart said that Adobe's decision "certainly does justify Jobs' open letter," but it also acknowledges that Adobe's primary role is "being a tools vendor."

He said that "if the best tool for the job is Flash, then Adobe will sell you Flash tools." But, Greengart said, Flash "simply didn't work well on mobile devices, and it's intended for larger devices." This means that mobile users, he said, will largely not see any difference, except for the occasional Web site, such as a wedding photographer's, which is built in Flash.

He noted that such a site needs to be redesigned to work well on mobile devices, anyway. Some manufacturers, Greengart said, have "been using Flash as a key differentiator, but that's not proven to be an effective strategy."

"Flash still has a future," Greengart said, "on the Web."