UPDATE [Wednesday, November 9, 10:15am ET] Adobe has confirmed the news in a blog post, saying “HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively” (perhaps a not-so-subtle hint at iOS?)
The unthinkable could happen this morning, if there’s any substance to ZDNet’s report asserting that Adobe is about to cease development on Flash for mobile devices in order to refocus its efforts on HTML5 while suggesting that Flash developers re-package their content as AIR apps. Sources leaked the following announcement, allegedly waiting to be made official later today:
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. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.
Metaphorically speaking, Steve Jobs gets the last laugh. Adobe also axed 750 jobs as part of its strategy shift, sending shares down 7 percent to $28.27 in afternoon trading. Meanwhile, sources told ZDNet that Microsoft might follow Adobe and pull the plug on its Silverlight run-time, which has been living on life support anyway (even though it’s used in places like Netflix):
Several of my customer and partner contacts have told me they have heard from their own Microsoft sources over the past couple of weeks that Silverlight 5 is the last version of Silverlight that Microsoft will release. They said they are unsure whether there will be any service packs for it, and they are also not clear on how long Silverlight 5 will be supported by Microsoft.
As you know, Apple’s late co-founder published an open letter in April of 2010 titled “Thoughts on Flash”, sparking a technology stand off between his company and Adobe. In it, he disparaged Flash as a battery-sucking technology for interactive content which doesn’t lend itself well to touch interfaces on small screens because it “was created during the PC era”.
Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short. New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.
It’s also worth asking whether ceasing Flash development on mobile spells doom for the desktop version of the technology. After all, Adobe did double down on HTML5, having released a number of tools to assist developers in developing HTML5-based web apps.