Mobile Flash: Adios and Good Riddance

on November 9, 2011

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UPDATE: Adobe has confirmed the end of mobile Flash development.

Jason Perlow at ZDNet is reporting that as part of a restructuring announced yesterday, Adobe is ending development of its Flash plug-in for mobile browsers. If true, and the story seems well-sourced, this marks the end of one of the silliest tech controversies in recent memory.

The dispute was triggered, of course, by Apple’s refusal to support Flash on iOS devices and  by Steve Jobs and other Apple executives steadfastly supporting native HTML 5 over the Adobe technology. Some commentators viewed the lack of Flash would doom the iPad. Google and makers of Android phones and tablets claimed the ability to run Flash as a huge competitive advantage. An Adobe executive claimed the only reason Apple was keeping Flash off its products was to prevent Flash-based services like Hulu from competing with iTunes.

There was only one problem with the argument. Flash never actually worked on mobile devices. It was buggy, stuttery, and a huge resource hog. Beyond Flash video, the mouse-centric interface of flash applications never worked right on touch displays.

Somehow, the problems of Flash were always going to be fixed in the next version of the software, or with 16-core processors, or something. But while mobile Flash got better, it never got good, and Adobe now seems to be facing up to inevitable: Steve Jobs was, as was so often the case, right. Flash was the wrong technology for mobile.

The impending death of Flash deprives Android of a marketing claim. But anyone who bought an Android phone or tablet to enjoy the pleasures of flash was mostly the victim of exaggerated, if not outright false advertising. We’re all better off without it.