In April 2010 the late Steve Jobs wrote an open letter addressing Apple’s insistence on not supporting Adobe Flash on its mobile platforms. He concluded: “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, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”
Shortly thereafter, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said: “The technology problems that Mr. Jobs mentions in his essay are ‘really a smokescreen.’”
Hindsight is of course 20-20 but even though Jobs’ open letter was written just under two years ago, wasn’t the writing already then on the wall for Flash and Adobe?
Adobe cuts jobs and refocuses
Yesterday it was widely reported that Adobe will cut 750 jobs in an effort to phase out its dependence on older products. Instead the company will increase its focus on digital media and marketing. These areas Adobe refers to as “exploding growth categories.” Apparently Adobe is also abandoning Flash on TVs.
In a statement Adobe said it is “shifting resources to support even greater investment in HTML5,” thereby further spelling out the doom for Flash. Adobe added that “Flash resources” will be focused “on delivering the most advanced PC web experiences,” leaving mobile Flash as a question mark.
That question mark is being answered by what appears to be an exclusive statement to ZDNet, in which Adobe said that it will “no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices.” Instead, it will focus “on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores.”
Will you miss Flash?
Adobe must know something about declining usage of Flash that it’s not talking about publicly. On the Adobe.com website we can still read that Flash reaches 99% of Internet-enabled PCs in “mature markets” (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), according to a survey by Millward Brown.
Also on Adobe’s site, we can read that by end of 2011, “over 132 million smartphones… will support Flash Player, and over 50 models of tablets will ship with or be able to download Flash Player.”
We have no intention to just dismiss Flash; there are many situations where Adobe Flash is both a good developer tool and a suitable end user environment. It does seem clear however that Adobe is working hard at transitioning away from Flash to other technologies, and the latest news reconfirms that.
For web developers the message must also hit home with force; it’s time to look at alternatives to Flash for your websites.