Adobe to Discontinue Flash for Mobile

In a surprise move, Adobe has announced that they will stop the future development of Flash on mobile platforms. Here's a quote from their official blog post.

"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. We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers.

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. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook. We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations.

These changes will allow us to increase investment in HTML5 and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry, including advanced gaming and premium video."

In terms of background, the various reports that I've read tend to indicate that Adobe wasn't getting the support they needed from vendors like Google to make Flash work effectively on mobile platforms. That doomed the Flash player to deliver a sub-par experience, which helps no one.

In addition, as desktop CPUs become more powerful, Flash apps on the web have become more CPU intensive, requiring faster CPUs to run smoothly. At the other end of the CPU power spectrum, Flash-enabled tablets and phones simply don't have the power to execute the Flash apps that run smoothly on desktop computers. Again, Flash produces a sub-par experience, which helps no one.

My immediate reaction (read probably ill-advised and subject to change) is that one of two things will happen in the short term. One is that two classes of websites will be created; one completely decked out with Flash, the other more simple and targeted for mobile devices. That's already being done by some vendors like Converse, who, if you visit it with an iPad, sends you to a simple e-commerce site, but if you visit with a computer, sends you to an immersive Flash experience. The other is that many vendors, seeking to minimize development costs, will produce a single site using HTML5 that lacks much of the immersion that Flash can provide.

In terms of video, remember that HTML5 doesn't have many key technologies now being used or implemented by the primary distributers of non-UGC video on the web (networks, studios, etc). These include adaptive streaming, digital rights management (DRM), peer-to-peer delivery, and in the enterprise space, multi-casting. Remember also that at last count (November 9, 2011), the penetration of HTML5 compatible browsers on connected computers was under 60%. Streaming producers are going to need a plug-in based option for several more years, and Flash is the obvious choice. Flash on the desktop isn't going away any time soon. It just feels like in the mobile space, Adobe decided if they couldn't provide a good experience (for whatever reason), it didn't make sense to provide a bad experience.

If you're a web producer trying to access these mobile devices, your strategy doesn't change much either. You've had to deliver to desktops with one technology and iDevices with another, Android has always been a fractured market. Now you'll likely deliver to all mobiles using a single technology (let's hope) and all desktops with another. Certainly Google's adaption of HTTP Live Streaming in Android 3.0 is a good sign.

Probably also worth mentioning are the layoffs that Adobe announced on November 8, 2011. This is not a company in trouble; they're poised to reach US $1 billion in sales for a quarter for the first time and are solidly profitable. Rather, Adobe seems to binge and purge with employees, with the last major layoff almost exactly 2 years ago, and the news announcements are earily similar. I'm not qualified to comment on the effectiveness of this policy, and my thoughts are with those who lost their jobs.

Comments (10)

Said this on 11-9-2011 At 02:09 pm

This just screwed Android in the future! The biggest thing that Android had over iOS was Flash. Now Adobe won't develope it anymore.

Said this on 11-9-2011 At 04:46 pm

Corey it would seem that Android users weren't all that happy with the results they were getting from Flash. It's interesting that Jan notes that there had been reports that Adobe wasn't getting support they needed from Google (developers of Android OS).

One might expect that Android users will get the same attention that iOS file compatibility gets such that an encode targeting certain level of iOS will be equally supported on Android devices.

I think that may well help the Android experience.

Said this on 11-10-2011 At 02:11 am


I disagree. For many websites, the iPad is a dumbed down experience (like Converse). Now Android is doomed to the same experience. I challenge you to show me one site that's better on the iPad than it is on a Flash-based computer--there are none.

Clearly on some sites, Android tablets couldn't keep up with the level of immersion programmed in for desktop CPUs. However, on many, if not most, they could. Adobe is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. At this point, if all the Android devices do is duplicate the iOS experience, I'll stick to my iPad and see no compelling reason to buy Android (anyone want to buy a cheap Toshiba Thrive?). 

I think it's a huge negative for the Android platform going forward.


Said this on 11-11-2011 At 12:50 am

I don't think Adobe would have made the decision without a serious look at the market. I suspect it simply wasn't generating the web views that advertiseres demand and, as a result, advertisers prefered the more "conservative" option able to reach the widest target.

Said this on 11-10-2011 At 02:05 am


I agree, and certainly so did Android tablet developers, who almost invariably listed Flash as the first or second key feature in their products. Flash worked well for me on my Toshiba Thrive, which played most Flash sites like ESPN and many others perfectly well.It will be interesting to see how Android developers now try to distinguish their products from iOS devices.

I have to guess that what's unseen is some fundamental break between Adobe and Google. They seemed like such strong partners so recently.


Said this on 11-11-2011 At 01:01 am

I have to guess that what's unseen is some fundamental break between Adobe and Google. They seemed like such strong partners so recently.

Agreed but I think one can at least guess why. Android's purpose, I think, is to generate advertising revenue for Google. I don't think Android Flash was generating the web views (of Google advertising for example) they had hoped for.

The best Android devices handled it well but I don't think that represented the broader Android user market. I can't think of any other reason why this happened. Google lost interest, the advertisers lost interest so Adobe lost the motive as market demand dropped.

Of course I'm open to other explanations but I don't see any business leverage other than the immediate market circumstance. I wonder if you were to interview key people involved in web advertsing they migh offer an analysis.

Said this on 11-11-2011 At 11:54 am
Interesting thought. Have you seen anything written on this or are you just noodling? Always good to remember why Google is in the Android business, however convoluted it sounds.

Thanks, as always, for your posts.

Craig Seeman
Said this on 11-12-2011 At 01:43 am

Well I do start with

I think one can at least guess why.

Basically I've run through some permutations in my head and can't think of any other market based analysis that makes sense (to me).

A good clue might be digging up some major site's analytics to see the number Android devices hitting the site with Flash enabled. Of course even Flash enabled doesn't tell of the user's experience. Another might be repeat visits from certain IP addesses indicating that early visits enable Flash and later visits were Flash disabled. Even all this wouldn't tell why Adobe killed it but short of the smoking gun, we could hunt through the wisps of smoke. I'd love to hear other's give a market analysis at least. I'm not really finding anyone writing that yet.

Said this on 11-9-2011 At 04:54 pm

While the mobile arena was certainly a battlfield fraught with conflict I suspect that will be less likely on the desktop.

With Adobe investing heavily in the development of HTML5 content creation tools as they have with Flash, that should mean they will have excellent control over the user experience when it comes time to manage that transition (being aware that it might be some time given the HTML5 diffeciencies). I certainly excpect Adobe will cooperate with itself very well through development <wink>.

I can't help but think the transition is invetiable although not in the near term. That Adobe can manage both ends (unlike the mobile battleground) means it should be a far less rocky road . . .  I believe.

Said this on 11-10-2011 At 02:13 am


I agree. Not to mention that HTML5 is at max 58% penetration at this point, and doesn't have DRM, true streaming, adaptive, peer to peer or multicast. Flash ain't going anywhere soon.


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