updated 10:20 am EST, Wed November 9, 2011
Adobe to stop mobile Flash past 11.1
Adobe in a statement Wednesday confirmed that it was stopping work on mobile Flash. After Flash 11.1 for Android and the BlackBerry PlayBook, it would limit any future updates to major bug fixes and security holes. Those with source code could develop on their own, but Adobe wouldn't spend effort updating to support newer operating systems, browsers, or hardware.
All future work on Flash would focus on using AIR 3 and similar tools to package Flash for native apps. Direct Flash use would be limited to "advanced gaming" and "premium video," Adobe said. Flash still has an advantage in including copyright protection and other features that don't yet have a footprint in HTML5. Flash features would be designed in part with the intention of bringing them to HTML5 for a "smooth transition."
The exit was nonetheless cast in what amounted to a concession to Apple, which in Steve Jobs' now well-known letter said Flash simply wasn't viable as a proprietary plugin. Adobe's Interactive Development VP Danny Winokur claimed that HTML5 now had enough reach that Adobe should shift its focus to the standard.
"HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," he said, in an allusion to Apple's focus on truly universal web standards in iOS. "This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms. We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."
The decision to drop mobile Flash was hinted at by Adobe's warming up to HTML5, but is still a dramatic reversal from the company's attitude of just a year ago. At the time, it not only felt Flash was best but insisted that it was a basic right of the Internet, and that Apple was denying freedom simply by choosing not to use what it saw as a proprietary, slow, and vulnerable product. It often tried to claim that Apple was dictatorial and was even ruining the web despite Adobe's own ads and statements, which portrayed Flash as mandatory and encouraged the use of a platform that only it controlled.
Adobe's choice may be a significant blow to Android and to RIM's future PlayBook and BBX devices. Nearly every Android phone and tablet maker uses Flash as a core selling point in a strategy that's often thought to be at the request of Adobe. RIM faces a much deeper problem, since Flash and its offline equivalent AIR are the core frameworks for higher-level apps on the PlayBook and have frequently been its main marketing points. Both platform supporters now have to adopt the position Apple has taken and support universal standards such as HTML5 rather than rely on Adobe to improve their own web experience.