Adobe discontinues Flash Player for Mobiles

After years of defending the need for Flash on mobile devices (and several half-baked player iterations later), Adobe have officially announced they’re scrapping Flash Player for the Android and BlackBerry platforms.

What does this mean exactly?

Flash Player currently powers the majority of video content on the internet, along with many websites with deep animation & interaction. In the past two to three years however, the move away from Flash has been making steady gains as the iOS platform (iPhones & iPads) continues its proliferation of the ‘net.

This means that most major content outlets (YouTube and Vimeo included) have already switched on to the fact that Flash is on its way out, in many cases preferring to serve video and interaction via HTML5, an open technology that is supported by every major web browser and every current smartphone – including of course the marketshare-leading iOS platform.

Why have Adobe decided to axe Mobile Flash?

Adobe have long defended their belief that Flash has a place on the mobile web, a stance that the late Steve Jobs disagreed with passionately. From Apple’s 2010 Thoughts on Flash article:

“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.”

I can only assume that Adobe’s latest move was inspired in part by Apple’s refusal to allow Flash onto iOS. Adobe make money on every Flash developer license they can sell and a dwindling audience (as iOS gains further traction) would eventually mean dwindling Flash sales. It’s time then for the company to focus its efforts on HTML5 and what it can achieve in this new realm.

What’s instore for the future?

Adobe have already made progress in weaning the mobile web off Flash, updating their server products to include offerings which effortlessly convert Flash video content to HTML5 equivalents on-the-fly. From the looks of it, they’re keen to get a strong foothold on HTML5. From the horse’s mouth:

“These changes will allow us to increase investment in HTML5 and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry, including advanced gaming and premium video.”

Flash as a whole is not going away anytime soon, with version 11 (for PC/Mac) having just been released and version 12 due out in 2012. With 99% browser penetration, it’s clear that there’s still a place for the plugin in the online market.

What about the Mobile Flash players that already exist?

Adobe will continue to support Flash Player for Android and Playbook in the form of bug fixes and security updates, but don’t expect this to last indefinitely and don’t count on any new features.