Mobile Flash: Adios and Good Riddance

Steve Wildstrom / November 9th, 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.

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
  • Nicholas Jabbour

    Most engaging… is this to say that flash will disappear from the market, or will it simply stop being supported? Buggy as it is, I still think it’s a very useful asset.

    • Flash is going to be around on the desktop for some time to come, although the fact that Microsoft will not support plugins, including both Flash and its own Silverlight, in the Metro version of IE 9 dooms it on the desktop in the long run. but by the time we’re running Windows 8, developers will have had plenty of time to port web sites and apps to native HTML 5.

  • James Saldana

    Without Flash on moblie devices every site on the internet will need to enable a HTML5 or some other open solution. This may not kill Flash but it will eventually make it irrelevant on the desktop.

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