Unstoppable force, meet immovable object

First of all, the sky is not falling. Flash is not dead.

But with a poorly handled announcement by Adobe regarding the Flash Player plug-in for “mobile browsers” it really caused quite a stir. Unfortunately, the intent of the communication was not clear enough for most people. Including most of us in the community. Adobe can only blame themselves for this.

What was lost in the message is that, although they will not be actively adding new features to the mobile browser Flash Player, they are continuing to support the mobile plug-in.

So what does this change? Nothing.

The Flash Player for mobile is already NOT on iOS devices. That is not changing that we know of. Flash Player 11 for mobile is already on Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and others.

So again, what has changed? Nothing.

What made Flash Player dominate the desktop was its ubiquity. You could count on it being there. Unfortunately, that isn’t that case for mobile.

And for all the haters, this is by no means throwing in the towel or admitting defeat. Flash Player for mobile is already on 80% of mobile devices. iOS market share is still dropping. Just say’n.

But the key thing for Adobe was that without the ubiquity that Flash Player has on the desktop, it’s hard to make the same claims of rich interface consistency across platforms. Without the consistency across platforms, you might as well use HTML 5 which is supported as best as possible by all smart phone browsers. And as a tools provider, there resources are better spent where they will make the biggest impact.

You do have to take this decision with a grain of salt. HTML5 is still a specification that is being worked on for a couple of more years. Yes, YEARS before it will become a standard. See some of my points regarding HTML5. We, developers, will have to live through browser compatibility hell again as we did for a decade with JavaScript. yeah.    Since HTML 5 still needs work to get to its promise (http://www.w3.org/TR/html5), it makes sense for Adobe to put more resources into HTML 5.

Flash Player is not going anywhere, for now. Flash Player for the browser and AIR for Mobile and Desktop at still the easiest and most consistent way to put consistent cross platform engaging experiences in front of users.


As an aside, I still think that it is a huge mistake by Apple to not allow users to install Flash Player on their tablet. I can care less about phone browsers, they are simply too small. But I am always using the “full site” option when browsing on my tablet. And because I’m on a Galaxy Tab, I get to enjoy all sites as they were meant to be. I do give Apple credit for their impact on the mobile phone world, but I don’t think it will carryover as well on tablets. The competition in the space has already caught and passed them from a quality product perspective. They may have the tablet market share currently, but just like the PC and the phone, they will eventually be swallowed up by the flood of less expensive options that are as good as or even better.

The “Jimmy the Greek” predictions of the demise of Flash have emerged again with fervor. To their chagrin, they are slowly realizing that this is not the case. In fact, Flash is still expanding into new areas. Cases in point, TV and embedded devices. HTML 5 is still not good enough nor consistent enough to replace Flash Player, even on mobile.

About Rob Rusher

In his role as Principal Consultant for On3, Rob leads an software development practice to help his clients build rich Internet applications for the desktop, browser, and mobile devices, and to rapidly increase their knowledge and skills to better support their organization's goals. Rob is an Adobe Certified Expert, Community Professional, and Certified Instructor. He has taught and mentored the technical teams at HP, Overstock, Paychex, SAS, the FedEx, and other Government and Fortune 100 organizations. Rob has co-authored four best-selling books on building secure, cutting-edge and rapidly developed applications using Adobe AIR, ColdFusion and Flex. He is very active in organizing and speaking at RIA, Adobe LiveCycle, mobile conferences, and user groups. In addition to growing his software consulting practice, On3, Rob has been building expertise in rich client application development on a wider variety of devices and platforms that extend the applications to change the way we all create and live.