Flash Forward: Can Adobe Leave Apple in the Dust?

flash, sharply rejected by Jobs and Company, has moved on to Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) competitors, hoping for a warm welcome and the promise of a place in the mobile market. While Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ recent open letter deploring Adobe’s (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash managed to do little in terms of settling the argument as to who was right in the debate, it did point out many of the problems with the oft-buggy software that may indeed plague the smartphone experience.

With Flash Player 10.1 set to debut later this year and a slew of Flash alternatives moving into the forefront, the need for compatibility between third-party developers and designers has grown significantly. In 2009, Avi Greengart, the research director of consumer devices atCurrent Analysis, predicted that if Apple were to leave Flash out of its lineup, then it must be coming up with its own video support setup since it would end up being a disadvantage.
After Apple’s public support for HTML5 was announced, Greengart noted that “there is still enough Flash-only content on the Web that full mobile Flash support could be a short-term competitive differentiator against the iPhone. However, mobile Flash 10.1 has been repeatedly delayed. … By that time, the gap may have been closed further.”
Greengart’s words may not have hit Adobe’s front doors, but the Flash developers have officially jumped ship and embraced the rest of the mobile market. While the official release date has yet to be set, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen has promised an official launch before the end of the year, along with a plethora of Android, WebOS, and Research In Motion(Nasdaq: RIMM) smartphones and tablets that will be fully supported.

Who’s In?

There have been recent reports that Adobe’s employees are already testing Android 2.2 (or Froyo) with a fully functional Flash Player installed, and a video of the process has been making the rounds on the Internet. The main gripe from Jobs, as well as from Web users, is that Flash on slower systems tends to be buggy and cause crashes.In the video, speeds for both using Flash Player for videos as well as for browsing proved faster than anything either Android or mobile Flash had exhibited before.
Some reviewers are suggesting the process is nearly flawless and see Adobe as effectively proving Apple’s accusations wrong. Flash 10.1 on Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Nexus One, the phone used in the video demo, can be turned off as well as optimized to work only on Flash-enabled websites.
While Android and Adobe’s partnership has been anything but secret, with Adobe’s Web programmer population having all been given Froyo phones to work with, other mobile OS companies have been more than mum on the subject.
Neither RIM (BlackBerry) nor HP (NYSE: HPQ) (webOS) has come out publicly with efforts to help move Flash 10.1 forward for mobile phones, even while both companies announced plans to support Adobe. RIM went so far as to join the Open Screen Project in 2009, a broad initiative to open up standalone applications and Web-browsing access to more than 50 industry leaders. The Open Screen Project is led by Adobe, and includes partnerships with Motorola (NYSE: MOT),Nvidia (Nasdaq: NVDA), HTC and Nokia (NYSE: NOK), among others.
David Wadhwani, the general manager and vice president of the Flash platform business unit at Adobe, said, “It’s a natural fit for both companies (RIM and Adobe) to work together to bring Flash technology-based video and Web content to BlackBerry smartphone users.”

HTML5 Isn’t Ready

While the respect seems to be mutual for all members of the Open Screen Project, not many have come out to publicly defend Adobe or Flash after Steve Jobs’ public letter that criticized the platform.
Even so, it does not look as though Flash 10.1’s omission on the iPhone — or Windows Phone 7, for that matter — will manage  to hurt Adobe as long as all the other players stick to the plan and wait for the eventual release. As for advocates of HTML5 in place of Flash, the coding standard is not expected to be fully developed for years to come. Adobe’s 10.1 — if released in June, as many have speculated — will likely be able to establish a necessary lead by the time HTML5 is widespread.
Unlike Apple’s expectations for its “walled garden” of available platforms, the rest of the Internet would benefit from the availability of Flash on mobile browsing, considering that a majority of websites currently still use versions of the Flash player to support their videos — for example, Hulu.
Even with Web polls from tech blogs like PCWorld and InfoWorld declaring that a larger percentage of their readers (55 percent) agree with Apple on the matter of Flash, the largest players are still the other platforms. If Android’s Froyo, RIM’s newest OS, and HP’s newest tablets all support Flash, then they will still represent a large majority of the smartphone market share — something that Apple does not seem to mind.
Reference: http://www.macnewsworld.com/story/69991.html?wlc=1274705426


  • I am an advocate of open systems, however rightly or wrongly Apple is all about the user experience. And it excels from the advertising, to the packaging, the hardware, and to the applications all focused on that perfect user experience. So I completely understand their position of blocking Flash as it just will not be pleasing to the Apple fans.
    Every technology has a sweet spot of what it was designed for. Adobe Flash has its roots in the desktop environment and it works fantastic there. It just does not scale down to the mobile device world effectively.

  • With HTML5 and SVG on the way (IE9 will finally support both), Flash usage will be greatly reduce.
    So it’s Adobe who will be in the dust, not Apple 🙂
    Apple (and many other smart phones) supports only HTML, JavaScript and CSS. With HTML5 coming, they will the winner, and Adobe Flash will the loser for 100% sure – because not open standard.
    Take a look of what Jobs says:
    Also, take a look of this page:

  • I have never been a fan of flash. Very few flash-based websites do anything useful with it. It’s generally just annoying eye candy. I do wind up using flash as a media player for flv and mp4 files, but will start switching to HTML5 and open codecs as they become easier to use.
    Full disclosure: I have an iPhone and my No. 1 annoyance are sites that are flash-only.

  • Open Source. Free For Commercial Use. Bottom Line. It will work better than Flash.

  • The cloud and SAS will leave all these nuances behind.

  • Scarlett Thomas sums up the spat between Apple and Adobe pretty well in PopCo, where “subversive agents” work inside the organisation to undermine it.
    The real question perhaps in the Apple and Adobe spat is whether PopCo applies.
    Are the people within each organisation trying to undermine themselves, the other organisation, or both…?

  • I would say that Flash will lose its dominance in the next year to HTML5/H.264 video content. Flash in itself is sort of a ‘standard’ in itself own right, but it is not the same as an ‘open standard’ which is more streamlined.
    I would hope that Adobe begin to develop on the new HTML5/H.264 frameworks, as once you have people like Microsoft and Apple concentrate on a common framework – its pretty much game over. In using a common framework, we all end up with more secure platforms.

  • No one leaves any one else in the dust. The customer alone can.
    Apple has something behind the wraps that it wants to push taking advantage of its existing customer adoption.
    It is all about leverage. No amount of criticism or counter criticism will help.
    Does apple have what it takes to compete with flash (under the wraps) ?
    ( Going by recent trends ipod , iphone , ipad) they do ! and look at the D conference interview of steve jobs where he says that they dont have a tablet in the works (and now you know there is ipad).
    Source : Apple Insider – Posted Tue, May 11, 2010 9:35 AM by Slash Lane

  • The question is : Can Apple leave Adobe in the dust Apple will make it no matter what if Adobe doesnt look for alternatives I am not sure how long they will thrive

  • Adobe is doing a pretty good job leaving themselves in the dust. Between their public ranting and silly newspaper ads, they come off like some kind of psycho Apple stalker. If I were Steve Jobs I’d get a restraining order.
    Anyway–I installed froyo on my Nexus One and Flash Player 10.1 kind of validates some of Apple’s concerns. While Flash performance is decent, trying to interact with a Flash applet on Android is problematic since existing apps are just not written for touch control.
    CS5 has an API for this, and I’m assuming Kongregate’s mobile site uses it…since their games work pretty well (and have a full screen mode).
    So–to really use Flash content properly on a phone, you’re going to need to customize it for a mobile interface. The large amount of Flash content is not going to “just work” on mobile devices with a plug-in.
    Will Flash devs make custom mobile versions of all their content? Especially when only a tiny sliver of a tiny sliver of mobile devices can use it right now?
    For a good first step, adobe should work on making the conversion process easier with their tools.

  • I’m sure Apple’s stance and advances in HTML5 will change the way Flash is used, but that’s not to say it will be a Flash killer. Adobe has been around and very successful for a long while creating user-friendly tools for creative development. I have confidence that long before all the Flash video and animation-heavy sites are retooled to be Apple mobile-friendly (and this is not happening overnight – that’s a LOT of content), Adobe will have other solutions developed for the web as well as other non-mobile uses for Flash.
    Adobe and Flash are not synonymous. Adobe already develops tools for web professionals (Fireworks, Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc) that will be used to generate content for the new web standards.
    I know that Flash is not the ideal format for web development on a grand scale, and can be replaced with other video formats and open code. But for robust entertainment and elearning applications, you really cannot beat it for its flexibility and ease of use as an authoring tool. As an animator, I would still be able to create my animated short film in Flash, and then export to multiple video formats which can be viewed on Apple tech. The authoring environment still has value – can output to multiple formats, and that’s with the current version, never mind what Adobe has up its sleeve for the future. And elearning is a huge business. Not to mention the entertainment market. Stand-alone applications could still be built using the Flash player for download, and when it comes to those markets, I would be surprised if corporate and gamers will ever be against using a plug-in technology to get bigger/better/cooler content.
    I think video and useless webpage animation might transfer from Flash in the future, but there’s still a future for that technology, and especially for Adobe’s other products.

  • I think it will be wise if Adobe flash produce and export HTML5, by that at least it will save the adobe flash users/developers/designers and they will be able to produce more innovative ideas using the same lovely tool “Adobe Flash”

  • Here’s my take on the situation: I’ve been working in website design since 1995. I’ve used Flash for such things as video and audio, but never for the development of a complete site. Why? Because you still have to provide an HTML alternative view of the site for those who don’t have Flash enabled. Not to mention that Flash has had some rather significant SEO issues.
    So, here’s someone who’s looking for something that does a better job with running audio and/or video and doesn’t muck up the SEO on the site.

  • Personally, I feel that adobe can still put a decent fight back by making flash ubiquitous ie offering flash for blackberry, windows mobile 7, android(which already is on the way) along with all other platforms from desktop to tablets and then make Flash open source. This makes sense as Flash in itself doesnt bring in much revenue for Adobe now. Open Sourcing it, will help bring better innovation to the platform further at the same time gather good will. This will help in reducing the heat it is currently facing from Apple and others.

  • Flash filled a void on the Internet for many years. I am actually surprised it lasted as long as it did. With that being said, part of the reason it lasted was the depth of its penetration into websites and marketing. How did it get so deep? It did animation better than anyone else, and it was not for lack of trying. Adobe tried, gave up, and bought Macromedia.
    I believe if Google was not trying to set itself apart from Apple it would consider not using Flash either. With HTML5 many will follow Apple’s lead. What is new there?
    It will not go away completely just like there are people on AOL browsers still coming to my site!

  • Excellent comments already summing up all of the points I can come up with. From a user point of view, I have been using the iPad since 4th April and until yesterday, when I was required to play games for my son on Nickelodeon site, which extensively uses flash – I never needed to worry about flash. Interestingly a lot of that kids content is coming up on the i-platform as native apps.
    Adobe needs to re-evaluate the future of Flash for the touch screens. And only then it can survive. Google is acting weird as they are sponsoring the HTML5 effort with Apple and at the same time saving flash. They need to pick up one road.

  • Levon Abrahamyan

    Only 2 pro-flash answers out of 9. Apple has nothing to do with it (it is equally or more hated). Adobe should probably learn the simple thing – not many user will tolerate downloading a chunk of content before actually seeing what that is about. Now consider the cost and complexity associated to downloading to the mobile devices. What is good about the “choice”?

  • Martin Roche

    Flash is a wonderful animation tool, but how often does the ‘skip’ button get pressed in order to get to functional information ?. More often than not, I imagine. There is a lot of marketing crossfire to weather in the A versus A battle, but the HTML5 offers something fresh, and is open enough for more functionality to be built-in along the way. For my money Flash will become a specialist tool in the same way as Beta video became one. Only a subjective opinion, but I don’t believe either Apple or Adobe have control of the fate of flash. If users think that Flash content really adds to the overall web experience, it will prevail, but at the very least, now there are alternative options, so only time will tell.

  • Luiz Felipe Schleder

    Someday people will talk about how Flash was, during the last decade, what were Frames in the 90ies. Adobe should move on.

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