Adobe Opts for HTML 5 Over Flash
Adobe's about-face appears motivated by the explosion of mobile computing.
HTML 5 has claimed another victim. This time, it's one of the most ubiquitous technologies on the Web.
Adobe has decided to move away from the controversial Flash Player and put its eggs in HTML 5 basket. This follows a similar move by Microsoft, which is ramping up support for the emerging Web standard and seems to be de-emphasizing Silverlight development.
Adobe is also planning to cut 750 jobs as part of a financial restructuring, the company announced this week.
Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs had famously harsh opinions of Adobe's Web graphics and animation platform, and at one point essentially banished Flash from the Apple platform. Adobe's abandonment of mobile Flash seems like a curse come true. Adobe says it will favor the use of HTML 5 over Flash for mobile devices.
Still, the shift to HTML 5 has had broad industry support, as acknowledged by Danny Winokur, Adobe's vice president and general manager of interactive development.
"HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," Winokur wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Adobe didn't kill off Flash, which now seems relegated to specialized applications, such as "advanced gaming" and "premium video," according to Winokur's description. Adobe Flash Player 12 is currently under development, but Adobe's efforts in creating Flash Players for mobile browsers will be redirected toward supporting HTML 5 innovation instead, Winokur explained. He said that Adobe will continue its work with Apple, Google Microsoft and RIM "to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."
HTML 5 promises to enable two-dimensional graphics and video within browsers through standard HTML 5 markup. The use of browser plug-ins, such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, for multimedia applications may not be required.
Flash developers writing for mobile devices will be able to "package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores," according to Winokur. However, Adobe will not continue to develop new Flash solutions for mobile device hardware after it releases "Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook."
Reaction to Adobe's Flash phase-out for mobile browsers was generally negative in the comments section of Winokur's blog post. Some of those commenting accused Adobe of caving to Apple. Others appear confused about when to use Flash over HTML 5 in applications. In that respect, Adobe seems no different than Microsoft, which rolled out a new Windows Runtime and Windows 8 Metro-style app development model keying off XAML and HTML 5, with little to no mention about the fate of its own Silverlight graphics platform. One explanation on the Microsoft side is that Silverlight developer skills will transfer over to using XAML without much effort.
Adobe is known for its Creative Suite graphics design tools and Dreamweaver developer and site management tools, but the company plans to restructure its operations more in the direction of providing infrastructure support for digital publishers. Two business segments will be key elements in this restructuring effort, namely Adobe's Digital Media and Digital Marketing operations. The job cuts, mostly in North America and Europe, are part of the restructuring effort, according to Adobe.
According to Adobe's published descriptions, its Digital Media business will be an attempt to sell the use of graphics- and Web-enabling technologies on a recurring subscription basis to content providers, such as the financially hard-hit magazine sector. TheDigital Marketing business will be an attempt to provide such digital publishers with marketing tools and real-time analytics solutions for their Web sites and media operations. Adobe is also promising to enable Web content to work across different device form factors, which can be problematic.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.