Adobe Systems' decision this month to halt development of its browser-based Flash Player application runtime for mobile devices, and instead shift its focus to native apps and the HTML5 web standard, was almost inevitable. However, the timing and handling of the decision was what was truly baffling, since it seemed clear for some time that HTML5 would win the day.
"Over the past two years, we've delivered Flash Player for mobile browsers and brought the full expressiveness of the web to many mobile devices," wrote Adobe Interactive Development vice president and general manager Danny Winokur on the Adobe Featured Blog. "However, HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."
That sentiment was also confirmed by Mike Chambers, Adobe's chief of developer relations, who wrote on his personal blog about the decision. He explained that the ubiquity of HTML5, the fact that users were take advantage of apps and the difficulties of working with multiple handset and platform vendors meant that Flash development on mobile was not long for this world.
However, all of that should have been more apparent to Adobe. The fact that Adobe pulled the plug on Flash just weeks after unveiling Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 is galling. Adobe promised publishers the tools to deliver console-quality 2D and 3D gaming experiences to mobile platforms including Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS (via the AIR runtime) and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry Tablet OS as well as the desktop and connected TVs. All of that promise and the hope for future Flash development went out the window.
In some sense though, the deathwatch for Flash on mobile officially began in April 2010, when Apple rewrote its iPhone developer agreement to mandate that all applications must be written to run directly on the iOS platform. Apple, Google and others had been heavily investing in HTML5, so while the decision to kill Flash for mobile was a result of a different technology winning out, Adobe's timing was awful.