Adobe ceases development on Flash Player for mobile, refocuses efforts on HTML5

“Adobe has briefed developers on the impending cessation of mobile flash browser plugin development,” Jason Perlow reports for ZDNet.

Adobe’s e-mail briefing to Adobe’s partners has been summed up as follows:

• Adobe is Stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile.

Adobe is now focusing their development efforts on:
• Applications for mobile
• Expressive content on the desktop (in and out of browser)
• Increasing their investments in HTML5 in general

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Did anyone else just hear a “Boom!” from beyond?

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain.

First, there’s “Open”.

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.

Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google uses it for Android’s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM (Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft’s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads. YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever. Add to this video from Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic, and many, many others. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video.

Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?

Fourth, there’s battery life.

To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder called H.264 – an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix and many other companies.

Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.

When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.

Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.

Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.


Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.Steve Jobs, April, 2010


      1. And remember this?

        This is the one employee I don’t feel sorry for if he got fired.

        Adobe’s Platform Evangelist, Lee Brimelow retaliated today against Apple blocking Flash developers on the iPhone with a post on his Flash Blog.

        Apple Slaps Developers In The Face

        By now you have surely heard about the new iPhone 4.0 SDK language that appears to make creating applications in any non-Apple-approved languages a violation of terms. Obviously Adobe is looking into this wording carefully so I will not comment any further until there is an official conclusion.

        [Sentence regarding Apple’s intentions redacted at request from Adobe]. This has nothing to do whatsoever with bringing the Flash player to Apple’s devices. That is a separate discussion entirely. What they are saying is that they won’t allow applications onto their marketplace solely because of what language was originally used to create them. This is a frightening move that has no rational defense other than wanting tyrannical control over developers and more importantly, wanting to use developers as pawns in their crusade against Adobe. This does not just affect Adobe but also other technologies like Unity3D.

        I am positive that there are a large number of Apple employees that strongly disagree with this latest move. Any real developer would not in good conscience be able to support this. The trouble is that we will never hear their discontent because Apple employees are forbidden from blogging, posting to social networks, or other things that we at companies with an open culture take for granted.

        Adobe and Apple has had a long relationship and each has helped the other get where they are today. The fact that Apple would make such a hostile and despicable move like this clearly shows the difference between our two companies. All we want is to provide creative professionals an avenue to deploy their work to as many devices as possible. We are not looking to kill anything or anyone. This would be like us putting something in our SDK to make it impossible for 3rd-party editors like FDT to work with our platform. I can tell you that we wouldn’t even think or consider something like that.

        Many of Adobe’s supporters have mentioned that we should discontinue the Creative Suite products on OS X as a form of retaliation. Again, this is something that Adobe would never consider in a million years. We are not looking to abuse our loyal users and make them pawns for the sake of trying to hurt another company. What is clear is that Apple most definitely would do that sort of thing as is evidenced by their recent behavior.

        Personally I will not be giving Apple another cent of my money until there is a leadership change over there. I’ve already moved most of my book, music, and video purchases to Amazon and I will continue to look elsewhere. Now, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting you do the same and I’m also not trying to organize some kind of boycott. Me deciding not to give money to Apple is not going to do anything to their bottom line. But this is equivalent to me walking into Macy’s to buy a new wallet and the salesperson spits in my face. Chances are I won’t be buying my wallets at Macy’s anymore, no matter how much I like them.

        Now let me put aside my role as an official representative of Adobe for a moment as I would look to make it clear what is going through my mind at the moment.

        Go screw yourself Apple.

        1. So long, Lee Brimelow. You have now trumpeted your idiocy to the world. Good luck finding a decent job in the future when any casual HR web search will bring up this drivel and highly unprofessional conclusion.

          Grinding emotional axes can be hazardous to your career.

        2. He has now crossed off the part on his leebrimelow. com site that says “my role as an official representative of Adobe” and has turned off comments with this comment, “Comments disabled as I’m not interested in hearing from the Cupertino Comment SPAM bots.”

          OK, so if he’s not man enough to stand behind his comments and her his critics then I think Adobe should know he touts himself as an “official representative for Adobe”.

          Wow, where do I start sending this to Adobe’s???

          I think I just bought my last Adobe product, I hope Adobe is happy with this a$$hats comments.

  1. Adobe has caved to the Android haters.

    Android’s biggest advantage over Apple products has always been it can play flash where Apple mobile can not.

    We will not let them take flash away, someone will have to step up and write a FLASH app for future Android devices so we can keep out tech lead over Apple.

    Android doesn’t need Adobe, we will do it ourselves.

        1. yeah, english is my second language so sometimes the sentences will not sound so correct. lol

          trying my best though =P

          but either way i am right, it looks like he has come out of a cave lol he doesn’t know what has happening in the world

    1. I have nothing against the derivative work called Android (death to Android!!!), but I’ve seen flash running on Android devices and I’m not sure how you can consider this an advantage.

      Frankly, I’m glad to hear that they’re killing mobile flash, because it’s very likely that the desktop variant will follow by attrition (I would imagine web developers will see a growing non-flash mobile market, and shrinking desktop market).

    2. As you may have read in the reprint of Steve Job’s open letter to Adobe, Flash is proprietary. Adobe owns it and won’t be giving the code away any time soon. If the code for Flash were open, it most likely would have ended up on the iPhone because then Apple (or anyone else for that matter) could have gone in and optimized the code for their phone and it wouldn’t have run like ass.

    3. No one caved to any ‘haters’. The fact of the matter is that Flash has always sucked on mobile.

      How is Flash NEEDED on android? I have an android device and flash is not needed, in fact the damn plugin is so buggy and such a resource hog I purposely avoid any sites that use flash when using my Droid.

      All Steve Jobs did was start pounding the drum early and saying out loud what most everyone else was already starting to think…. Adobe was blowing it with flash and its time to move on.

      Flash was great technology… in 1995… Its now 2011… time to put it to bed.

    4. Maybe Samsung can produce an android phone which can accept a bluetooth mouse to let you use all those advanced features you’re so obsessed about. Like FarmVille, although the rest of the world seems to have grown out of wearing diapers and stopped playing it, you obviously are still playing childish games. Does your mommy know you’re playing on the Internet?

    1. I have lost count of how many profiles, eulogies, retrospectives, reminiscences and analyses I have read in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death. But your last four words sum him up best of all.

  2. One thing for sure, Steve is the world’s greatest salesman not because of the RDF, although that might have a part to play, but because of the way he strings words together to make a coherent whole to convey his ideas and thoughts in the plainest way possible.

    If you listen to some of the CEOs today, and I’m speaking in particular of Meg Whitman (HP), Paul Otellini (Intel), Sam Palmisano (IBM) and the rest of the robotic speakers, they sound as if they’re from another planet with their MBAspeak and marketing bullshit.

    Way to go Steve. We love ya. RIP brother.

  3. So, all those people who buy Droid hardware for it’s flash ability are now playing with themselves, by themselves. Ha! Soon the world will be ours! (maniacal laughter, replete with hand wringing!)

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.