Adobe confirmed rumors Wednesday morning that it is, in fact, shutting down development of its Flash Player for mobile devices and will instead focus on HTML5.
As rumored, Adobe will continue to release bug and security updates for Flash on Android and RIM’s PlayBook, although there won’t be any new feature updates released.
“HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms,” said Danny Winokur, Adobe’s vice president and general manager of interactive development. “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.”
Adobe will let developers with source code licenses continue to develop their own mobile Flash players, although that could likely lead to some level of fragmentation that other Flash coders won’t be interested in supporting.
Flash’s future, at least for now, will be limited to desktop and laptop computers, and Adobe’s push into the mobile market will target developing platform-native apps based on Adobe AIR.
Adobe’s push to convince the world that Flash should be the standard for multimedia content on mobile devices was met by strong resistance from Apple; so much so, that Apple didn’t include a mobile version of Flash Player in iOS. That battle led to an open letter from Steve Jobs, who was Apple CEO at the time, where he called the platform closed, proprietary and unstable.
At the time, Mr. Jobs said:
Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath.
Adobe’s founders, John Warnock and Chuck Genschke, responded by calling Apple’s iOS platform closed, and added “No company — no matter how big or how creative — should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.”
Abandoning mobile Flash isn’t a big deal for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners since Apple never supported the multimedia platform on its mobile devices. It will, however become more of an issue for Web developers that rely on the technology because now there isn’t any incentive for them to support Flash for mobile devices.
The change could also become a big deal for traditional website development — and ultimately Adobe — since dropping mobile Flash support could kill any incentive site designers have for maintaining the platform on their desktop sites, too.
Adobe isn’t saying Flash is dead, and is even touting features of its upcoming Flash Player 12. With its growing support for HTML5, however, Adobe looks to be accepting that Flash’s relevance is receding — and maybe even proving Steve Jobs right, too.