Rosa Golijan/msnbc.comBy Rosa Golijan
Adobe has decided to stop developing Flash Player — the software necessary to view certain types of multimedia files — for mobile devices. Instead the software company known for bringing Photoshop, PDF files, and the like into the world will focus on HTML5, an open set of Web standards, along with tools which will enable developers to created Flash-enabled standalone apps.
So, what exactly is happening? And why are folks at Apple probably giggling as they read Adobe's announcement?
It all goes back to Flash's rough start on mobile devices. The technology has been heavily criticized for being unsuited to our favorite pocket-sized gadgets. It's prone to draining batteries, sucking up processor power and being impacted by security and reliability troubles.
But despite those issues, Android and BlackBerry have widely adopted the use of Flash. Google and RIM often use the acceptance of Flash as a selling point to differentiate their mobile products from Apple's, which have never supported mobile Flash.
But while Flash never had a place in the mobile version of Apple's Safari browser, Apple did once permit developers to use Adobe tools to build iOS apps. Then Steve Jobs, Apple's late co-founder, bluntly shared exactly what he thought about Flash as part of a company announcement that would lock developer tools such as Adobe's out of the Apple App Store.
Adobe made a fuss, but then packed up its toys and quit bothering with all things iOS-related — until Apple changed its mind ... again.
At this point, Apple is perfectly happy to accept apps developed using Flash technology while still stubbornly refusing to encourage the presence of Flash in its mobile browser. And now Adobe is embracing that reality.
While the company will no longer continue development on the mobile Flash Player software following the ultimate release — Flash Player 11.1 for BlackBerry PlayBook and Android device — it will continue offering Flash developers a way to "package native apps with Adobe AIR." And it will of course continue work on PC and Mac browsers.
This means that developers will still be able to take their Flash content, repackage and optimize it for mobile devices by turning it onto native apps which can be offered through the Android Market, Amazon Appstore, BlackBerry App World, and — yes, you've guessed it — the Apple App Store.
It's worth noting that Microsoft may also be refocusing on HTML5 technology when it comes to multimedia in browsers — mobile or otherwise — by ditching Silverlight, its own proprietary technology. According to ZDNet — who happened to let the cat out of the bag about Adobe's announcement before the company could even make it official — Microsoft may be turning away from its own version of Adobe's Flash. ZDNet's sources explain that Silverlight 5 — the upcoming release of the cross-platform browser plug-in — might wind up being the last. Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied this potential shift.advertisement
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
So what's with all the HTML5 talk?
It's all boils down to mobile Web browsers. Because they're relatively new, they have been designed with support for the next phase of Web development, tools for publishing video, animation and other media that keep processor usage down, in order to run smoothly and play nice with mobile devices. This whole bag of new tricks is known as HTML5.
According to Adobe's Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager of interactive development, this "makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."
Yowza. Those must've been some rough words to write. After all, after years of public fighting with Flash's chief critic, Steve Jobs, Adobe is admitting defeat — and validating some of Jobs' musings on Flash:
Flash was created during the PC era — for PCs and mice. 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.
We've reached out to Adobe to discuss this change of heart, but we were told that the company does not wish to comment further on its announcement. And that's alright, because by now we've sorted out the important stuff — the things you should be aware of.
Flash isn't completely dead, but this is the biggest victory yet for HTML5.
- Adobe's Carousel apps cloudify photo libraries and editing tools
- Photoshop Elements 9 now available in Mac App Store
- Can't afford Photoshop? Rent it
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