What Adobe’s Decision to Kill Mobile Flash Means to You
Adobe has decided to do away with mobile Flash. CIO.com's Al Sacco explains what the news means to mobile users, developers and platform makers.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
If former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had lived just another month or so–he passed in early October–you can bet he’d be smiling right now–and possibly even fist pumping a la Jersey Shore.
That’s because software company Adobe today announced plans to kill mobile Flash development, and, in essence, admitted that Mr. Jobs was right all along in his assertions that Flash was an unnecessary component in the mobile browser. Jobs insisted that Flash was simply a poorly architected, proprietary resource hog, and that mobile applications built with technologies like HTML 5 would be the future of the mobile Web. As such, Apple’s mobile Safari browser–found on its various iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPod and iPad–has never supported Flash.
And today, Mr. Jobs is looking even more like the visionary so many pundits have made him out to be in the many blog posts, feature stories, videos and even full length biographies published since his death.
So, you ask, what exactly does this mean for current smartphone and tablet users?
Right now, not all that much, honestly. Apple users shouldn’t see any immediate changes, since iOS never used Flash to begin with. And BlackBerry and Android users with Flash devices will be able to continue using their Flash-compatible applications and services with no need to worry about future security implications, etc. Adobe will “continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations,” according to a post on an Adobe blog.
The big news here is that Adobe, and the various companies that decided to support mobile Flash, including Google and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM), and their crops of mobile developers, could be looking at fairly significant development strategy shifts. And, one could argue, that these companies have wasted a lot of time and resources on initiatives that now seem not long for this world–at a time when competition with Apple is stiff, to say the least.
Both RIM and Google have also presented Flash support as a competitive advantage when comparing some of their Flash-compatible products, including the BlackBerry PlayBook and various Android tablets, to Apple’s wares. And now, though the products still offer functionality that continues to be unavailable to iOS users, Flash support really isn’t going to convince potential buyers to pick up a PlayBook or Android slate over and iPad in the future. Or it shouldn’t.
Adobe now says that its Adobe AIR technology and HTML 5 are the future of mobile Web development.
On the other hand, RIM offers HTML 5 development tools to BlackBerry developers via its BlackBerry WebWorks toolkit. In fact, RIM’s brand new developer guru has really been pushing HTML 5 to devs–so existing RIM developers working on future projects should have the right tools in place to move forward. Unfortunately, mobile developers with ongoing Flash-related efforts may now be inclined to scrap those products for ones that seem more viable in the long run.
In other words, the folks who will likely feel the most significant effects of this news are the developers who are (or were) currently working on mobile Flash initiatives. (And then there are those 750 or so Adobe employees who will lose their jobs due to an upcoming restructuring, which may or may not be related to the decision to drop mobile Flash.) And that’s unfortunate, especially since Adobe argued so vehemently for the Flash over the past few years.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.