On Wednesday, November 9, we got the news from Adobe that they have discontinued their development on the Flash player for browsers on new mobile devices (which means both phones and tablets). They will instead focus on the AIR platform, which developers can use to create apps for mobile, desktop and TV. In addition, Adobe will keep driving HTML5 innovation as the new standard for mobile.
What does it mean for consumers?
This news is not a surprise. Very little will really change, as far as the user experience goes, for the mobile web. Flash on mobile browsers simply didn't catch on, and despite the fact that Apple threw its weight behind HTML5, there were very few Flash sites that were optimized to work on mobile devices.
Create once, deploy everywhere
But the biggest misconception coming out of these new developments is that Flash 'lost' to HTML5. And while that might be true in mobile, both technologies are a part of our development toolkit, and should be used where and when appropriate. Flash is still the most consistent way to create rich content for the desktop browser. HTML5 on the other hand is now the official language for mobile browsing, as virtually all smartphones and tablets support it. In addition to that , with the release of Flash 11, Adobe is focusing the player on gaming and native 3D support.
This is a welcome strategy, as it will give developers better direction for when to use which technology. It just goes to show that Adobe is trying to position both technologies as complimentary rather than in competition with one another. Flash offers immersive content for the web, and people on mobile devices are looking for easy access to information. For immersive content, consumers turn to apps. Apps, as Adobe emphasizes, are now the main focus for their continued development on the AIR platform, which is in essence an extension of Flash. Because of this fact, repurposing Flash code into apps that are made with AIR is a huge time and money saver, as they can be deployed on iOS, Android, TV and the desktop with only minor tweaks. The same principal that helped propel Flash into the main stream is now true for the mobile age: create once; deploy everywhere.
Is Flash dead? Not by a long shot. In the end, it is a business decision for Adobe. The effort involved in coordinating with the multitude of hardware configurations, and software releases is not on par with the volume of work that is produced in this medium. This will give Adobe more room to focus on AIR, which carries the Flash torch into the mobile world, and HTML5.
Flash is still an amazing tool, and it keeps evolving. And as more and more consumers adopt mobile for the web, we'll see more iterations of both AIR and HTML5 influencing developers. The fact that more great tools are coming into play means more possibility for creativity in our ever-changing digital universe.