Adobe explains ditching Flash for mobile

Cites HTML5's value to customers and industry

Adobe Systems said Wednesday that it is abandoning the Flash Player in future mobile browsers to focus on HTML5, a decision that immediately ignited concerns among mobile app developers, many of whom are working with Android apps.

Adobe "will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations," according to a blog posted by Danny Winokur, general manager of interactive development for Adobe. Those configurations include the chipset, browser, OS version and more, he said. The changes will take place following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook, he added.

Winokur promised Adobe will continue to provide bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations.

The changes will allow Adobe to increase its investment in HTML5, a Flash alternative, and to innovate with Flash in areas where it can "have the most impact," such as advanced gaming and premium video, Winokur said.

"HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," he explained. "This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."

Separately, at an Adobe financial analyst meeting today, Adobe's general manager of digital media, David Wadhwani, said that HTML5 is "good for Adobe, our customers and the industry."

Web video and gaming will rely on HTML5 across phones, tablets and PCs, Wadhwani said. "It will take time and won't happen over night," he said at the financial conference, which was a webcast. "It plays to our strength."

In comments on the blog, developers had many immediate questions, including requests for more details on how Adobe will transition from its focus on the Flash mobile browser to HTML5.

One commenter, Mike Vitale, vice president of operations at TalkPoint Communications, said the move away from Flash on mobile is a "poor decision by Adobe" and that "most content distributors are very content to deliver live audio and video in Flash."

The concerns about Flash have mainly been that it saps battery resources on mobile devices. Also, Adobe officials on Wednesday also conceded that rolling out Flash across various mobile platforms has been time-consuming for developers.

Analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates said the decision by Adobe was "an admission ... about the incredible amount of resources it takes Adobe to maintain the Flash player for so many different chipsets and mobile OSes," such as Android, BlackBerry and others. "It's a resource nightmare for them."

The Flash announcement by Adobe came amid plans to drop 750 jobs and cut investment in enterprise software.

In the morning session of the conference, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen didn't comment on the job cuts or enterprise software directly, but said the company had made "necessary difficult decisions to restructure other parts of the business in order to succeed" in growth areas of digital media and digital marketing.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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