Adobe Admits: Apple Won, Flash For Mobile is Done, HTML5 is the Future

Adobe developer relations lead Mike Chambers has posted a lengthy explanation of why the company decided stop development of the mobile browser version of Flash.

The response comes as the health of the entire Flash ecosystem is in doubt. Adobe announced that Flash Player 11.1 would be the last version of Flash for mobile devices, though the company would continue to fix critical bugs. The company is also abandoning Flash on connected TVs.

“The decision to stop development of the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers was part of a larger strategic shift at Adobe,” writes Chambers. “One which includes a greater shift in focus toward HTML5, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud and the services that it provides.”

Chambers iterates five main reasons why Adobe decided that its resources were better spent elsewhere:

  1. Flash was never going to gain ubiquity on mobile devices, thanks to the fact that Apple resolutely refused to adopt the technology on the iPhone or iPad. “No matter what we did, the Flash Player was not going to be available on Apple’s iOS anytime in the foreseeable future,” he says.
  2. Meanwhile, HTML5 is ubiquitous. “On mobile devices, HTML5 provides a similar level of ubiquity that the Flash Player provides on the desktop,” Chambers says.
  3. Users don’t consume content on mobile in the same way they do on desktop. Differences in screen sizes, latency from wireless networks and the ubiquity of app stores made Flash less relevant on handheld devices.
  4. Developing browser plugins for mobile is much more challenging than the desktop. It requires more partnerships with OS developers, mobile hardware manufacturers and component manufacturers. “Developing the Flash Player for mobile browsers has proven to require much more resources than we anticipated,” Chambers admits.
  5. Adobe wanted to shift more resources to HTML5, and dropping Flash for mobile frees them to do so.

Chambers then goes into the difficult task of assuring developers that Flash itself is healthy. He explains that Adobe has made a “long term commitment to the Flash Player on desktops” and is focused on letting developers create mobile apps through the Adobe AIR platform.

It’s his thoughts on HTML5 vs. Flash that may be the most intriguing. Chambers admits in the final portion of his post that HTML5 will take over more and more of the functionality of Flash.

“If a Flash feature is successful, it will eventually be integrated into the browser, and developers and users will access it more and more via the browser and not Flash,” he states. And while HTML5 and CSS3 have a long way to go to match the ubiquity or functionality of the Flash Player, “the trend is very clear.”

“A lot of the things that you have done via Flash in the past,” he concludes “will increasingly be done via HTML5 and CSS3 directly in the browser.”

No matter how you sugarcoat this week’s episode of Flash theater, it’s clear that Apple has won the Flash argument and Adobe has lost it. This was clear to many of us in the tech industry early on, but the argument gained steam when Steve Jobs posted a lengthy open letter arguing that Flash was no longer necessary.

While Flash will be around for many years to come, it’s clear that even Adobe thinks HTML5 is the future. Flash’s days are numbered.

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