HTML5's rise spells Adobe Flash Player for mobile's demise

The news: Adobe Systems did not halt development of its browser-based Flash Player application runtime for mobile devices until mid-November, but the deathwatch officially began in April 2010. That's when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) effectively banned Flash from the iPhone, blocking developers from using cross-compiler translation tools and mandating that all applications must be written to run directly on the iOS platform.

But Apple didn't kill Flash--at least not directly. HTML5, the cross-platform runtime championed by Apple and rival Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), forced Adobe's hand. "HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," wrote Adobe Interactive Development vice president and general manager Danny Winokur on the Adobe Featured Blog. "This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms." Moving forward, Adobe will focus on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with its Adobe AIR runtime for all the major app stores.

Many mobile developers moved on from Flash to HTML5 even prior to Adobe throwing in the towel. In mid-October, outsourcing and crowdsourcing marketplace Freelancer.com reported that project builds targeting HTML5 Web increased 38 percent over the previous three-month period, while Adobe Flash projects declined 10 percent. Freelancer.com also stated that HTML is on pace to overtake Flash projects within the next six months--and that was before Adobe's decision to pull the plug on Flash Player for mobile.

Why are developers embracing HTML5? It's all about efficiency and reach. HTML5 offers developers a low-cost channel to extend their applications across multiple operating systems without rewriting code for each specific platform--undoubtedly a compelling option in a market with so different devices and form factors to consider. For now, native application development remains the preferred model for most developers: Not only do native apps offer clear-cut revenue opportunities like app store distribution, ads and in-app transactions, but also developers can integrate with device capabilities like messaging, camera access and contacts. Even so, HTML5's explosive growth can't be ignored. Just ask Adobe.

Why it was significant: Adobe's move erased any lingering doubts about HTML5's long-term viability. Even Adobe itself is on board: In October, the firm acquired Nitobi Software, creator of PhoneGap, an open-source development platform enabling programmers to build cross-platform apps written in HTML5 and JavaScript. PhoneGap technology has been used to create thousands of apps across iOS, Android, BlackBerry and other mobile platforms. Expectations are so high that Bernstein Research projects widespread adoption for HTML5-based web development could cut Apple's operation profit growth by as much as 30 percent, reducing margins on the iPhone and lowering iPad market share. Time will tell.    

HTML5's rise spells Adobe Flash Player for mobile's demise
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