Adobe’s decision to ditch mobile Flash: What you need to know

Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) said Wednesday that it will stop providing updates to its Flash software for mobile devices. Here are four things you need to know about this development:

First: This was pretty inevitable. Yes, Adobe’s Flash has been wildly successful as a platform for videos and games on personal computers. But on mobile devices, it just wasn’t cutting it.

That’s because Flash has come under fire from industry heavyweights such as the late Steve Jobs for being a battery vampire that isn’t well-designed to deliver video in the world of mobile. The first hint that Adobe was starting to move away from Flash for mobile devices came this past summer when Adobe announced its new Adobe Edge standard that incorporated HTML 5 to let developers create simple animations for viewing on mobile platforms such as iOS and Android. Today’s announcement is only continuing a move away from mobile Flash that started months ago.

Second: Adobe will be using HTML 5 for mobile going forward. Again, this isn’t at all surprising since Apple, Research in Motion and Google all support HTML, the newest standard of Web programming language that can now incorporate video and audio files directly into web pages without going through third-party plugins or APIs such as Flash. Since Adobe would be foolish to shun a programming language that will be universally incorporated into mobile devices, the company has sensibly decided to hitch its wagon to HTML 5 going forward. As Adobe put it today: “HTML 5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML 5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.”

Third: Yes, you’ll still be getting security patches. After Adobe releases the Flash Player 11.1 for Android and the BlackBerry PlayBook in the near future it will “no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations.” But fear not, fretful IT manager! The company will indeed keep pushing out bug fixes and security updates for existing versions of Flash on mobile devices, so you won’t have to worry about your company’s Flash-capable devices becoming major security risks.

Fourth: Adobe is still committed to Flash for desktop computers. Just because Adobe has given in to the inevitable on mobile devices that doesn’t mean the company is going to ditch Flash all together as it says it is already working on Flash Player 12 and “a new round of exciting features which we expect to again advance what is possible for delivering high-definition entertainment experiences.” Adobe is also pledging that the new features in the Flash Player 12 will enable “a smooth transition to HTML 5” so that it stays relevant for years to come. Flash may be going away on your mobile devices but Adobe wants it to remain a fixture on your desktop.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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