Adobe pulls the plug on Flash for mobile platforms

November 14, 2011

The news came after Steve Job’s death, but it was a tribute to the Apple CEO’s intelligence and marketing power. Adobe Systems, long the subject of Job’s criticism for pushing its power-hungry Flash player for mobile devices, last week pulled the plug on the technology, basically conceding defeat.

Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager of interactive development at Adobe Systems, announced the decision in a blog post. He said going forward, Adobe would develop native apps for mobile platforms and will focus on the HTML5 Web standard in the future. The company will abandon new mobile browser plug-in development following the release of Flash Player v.11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook, he said.

“HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively,” wrote Winokur. “This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms. [...] 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 said Adobe would continue to support existing versions of the plug-in and is already working on Flash Player v.12 for desktop computing, where Flash will continue to evolve.

“We will, of course, continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations,” he said. “We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations.”

Jobs created a furor when he rejected the Flash plug-in for Apple’s iPhone when it first launched in 2007. In 2010, he wrote a sarcastic critique of Flash, saying, “It was created during the PC era for PCs and mice.”

Jobs instead supported HTML5 for media playback on mobile devices. It took four years for his predictions to come true.

“The mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open Web standards — all areas where Flash falls short,” Jobs wrote in his critique.

Al Hilwa, an analyst at the research firm IDC, called the announcement by Adobe “a sad moment but a wise adjustment.”

He noted that Flash no longer appeared to justify Adobe’s significant R&D investment.

In addition to the Flash announcement, Adobe said it would lay off 750 employees as part of a restructuring plan. The company announced a new business plan emphasizing the software-as-a-service model and a new Creative Cloud initiative, including the recently announced Creative Touch apps for tablets. The company cited statistics indicating that 77 percent of creative professionals now want to create content on tablets.

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