The BlackBerry PlayBook was famously marketed as a Flash-capable tablet, though ultimately failed to deliver. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
UPDATE 8:39 A.M. PST: Adobe confirmed it will cease Flash development on mobile devices in a press release published Wednesday morning.
In an abrupt about-face in its mobile software strategy, Adobe will soon cease developing its Flash Player plug-in for mobile browsers, according to an e-mail sent to Adobe partners on Tuesday evening.
And with that e-mail flash, Adobe has signaled that it knows, as Steve Jobs predicted, the end of the Flash era on the web is coming soon.
The e-mail, obtained and first reported on by ZDNet, says that Adobe will no longer continue to “adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations,” instead focusing on alternative application packaging programs and the HTML5 protocol.
“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores,” the quoted e-mail says.
In the past, Adobe has released software tools for mobile developers that create a single platform programmers can use to make applications that work across three major mobile platforms: Android, iOS and the BlackBerry OS. While it’s seemingly easier than learning all of the native languages for each operating system, some developers have claimed a loss in app performance when coding in a non-native language that then gets translated into other languages.
The move indicates a massive backpedaling on Adobe’s part, a company who championed its Flash platform in the face of years of naysaying about its use on mobile devices. Despite Flash’s near ubiquity across desktop PCs, many in the greater computing industry, including, famously, Apple Computer, have denounced the platform as fundamentally unstable on mobile browsers, and an intense battery drain. In effect, Flash’s drawbacks outweigh the benefits on mobile devices.
Apple made its biggest waves in the case against Flash in April of last year, when Steve Jobs penned a 1,500-word screed against the controversial platform, describing it as a technology of the past. Jobs and Apple disliked the platform so intensely, it has since been barred from use on all iOS devices.
Despite attempts to breathe life into Flash on other mobile devices — namely, Android and BlackBerry OS — Adobe has failed to deliver a consistently stable version of the platform on a smartphone or tablet. In WIRED’s testing of the BlackBerry PlayBook in April, Flash use caused the browser to crash on a consistent basis. And when Flash was supposed to come to tablets with Motorola’s Xoom, Adobe was only able to provide an highly unstable Beta version of Flash to ship with the flagship Android device.
“Adobe has lost so much credibility with the community that I’m hoping they are bought by someone else that can bring some stability and eventually some credibility back to the Flash Platform,” wrote software developer Dan Florio in a blog post on Wednesday morning.
The drastic reversal in Adobe’s mobile plans comes in the wake of the company cutting 750 jobs on Tuesday, a move prompted by what Adobe labeled “corporate restructuring.”
An Adobe representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Flash is dead on mobile. One advantage Android theoretically had over iOS is going away.