Adobe finally kills Flash player development for mobile

From Danny Winokur, VP & GM, Interactive Development at Adobe:

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. 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.

I love Adobe. After Apple, Adobe is the company I count on for having allowed me to quit my job to freelance. I have a very large, soft spot in my professional heart for Adobe. What I know of Adobe is that when they focus, they turn out amazing and powerful tools that we could never have imagined before. With each substantive iteration of Creative Suite and each product announcement, I’m filled with this sort of breathless anticipation at discovering what new wonders will enable me to deliver a vision for my clients they never would have expected.

That’s where Adobe excels. They create the most powerful tools in the world for allowing creatives to do incredible work. Sometimes I get the feeling that Adobe doesn’t know that.

Of course, the real news:

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.

It’s about time.

This is the march of technology talking on one hand, timing on the other. The problem with Flash has always been that it’s devilishly tricky to optimize in low-power environments. Had mobile chips come out with the horsepower required for Flash and a cold fusion reactor in the first place, we wouldn’t have been having discussions about Flash on mobile. It would likely have been the dominant mobile media delivery mechanism. Unfortunately for Adobe, that reality only exists in some other timeline, which is about to be frozen in amber.

The upside is huge here. Getting Flash on mobile out of the picture means that Adobe will get to the yeoman’s work of creating the tools for creatives to build incredible things on all mobile platforms and focus on telling stories rather than graceful degradation for the mobile experience.

One last interesting point:

We are 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. We will continue to leverage our experience with Flash to accelerate our work with the W3C and WebKit to bring similar capabilities to HTML5 as quickly as possible, just as we have done with CSS Shaders. And, we will design new features in Flash for a smooth transition to HTML5 as the standards evolve so developers can confidently invest knowing their skills will continue to be leveraged.

That Flash will continue as a dominant media distribution package for big media is sort of a no brainer to me. But this last bit seems to me as a realistic assessment of progress in HTML5 for general rich media user experience. That Adobe is continuing to contribute and migrate underlying Flash tools says to me that they’re both aware that their future is in building tools for a standard which they do not control, and that we’re not there yet. I think they’re right on both counts, but this is the first time I’ve heard nuance from Adobe that there is a future out there on the horizon for deprecating the Flash desktop experience in favor of HTML5. It’s right there, in the subtext: if we bring all these rich media capabilities to HTML5, who’s going to be left developing in Flash?

On the upside, seems like the religious arguments about the future of Flash on mobile have dialed back their fervor. And Adobe’s doing a pretty good job of planting the seeds of transformation here as optimistically as they can.