Today Adobe has announced that they will cease development of its Flash Player on all mobile devices. In an abrupt yet expected move, Adobe will cut 750 jobs and switch their focus to AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) and HTML5, two alternatives to Flash.
The decision isn't too surprising; Adobe has struggled to incorporate Flash into the mobile market for years, largely thanks to Apple's iOS, which embraced HTML5, an arguably better multimedia platform for mobile-web. Flash for Mobile simply arrived too late, long after alternatives—even Adobe's own—began to establish themselves in the web market. The decision doesn't end Flash altogether, but is a strong indication of where the platform is headed.
There seem to be a couple of misconceptions floating around the web over this announcement. First of all, Flash isn't dead (yet). While certainly on its way out, Flash will still exist on the desktop, but once HTML5 and AIR take off, that is likely to go away, as well. And really, good riddance. I do have fond memories of Flash—back when it was Macromedia's product and the only way I could play computer games. Now, though, it has become the tool of intrusive internet advertisers and has made the web less navigable rather than enriched.
Secondly, Apple didn't “win” anything. They no doubt influenced Adobe's decision— Safari accounts for roughly 62% of mobile traffic, after all—but the fact remains: Adobe isn't getting out of the mobile multimedia game, they're simply switching players. And the two they have selected (AIR and HTML5) show promise in ways Flash was showing age.
Still, this marks a decisive blow to the Android market. A primary selling point of the OS was its ability to (barely) process Flash content. Now, consumers have one less reason to use Android, and in an iPad dominated market, they don't need much convincing anyhow.
Although unfortunate for the Adobe employees who are now out of a job, this is a necessary and long overdue play by the software manufacturer. As the way we browse web content evolves, so too should the tools used to access that content.
And so, we bid farewell to the first purveyor of enriched mobile-web content. Flash Player for Mobile, it was a noble effort.