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The Rumors of Flash Player’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

As of now, I don’t know if these rumors are valid

This morning ZD Net published an article stating the Adobe will cease development of Flash Player on Mobile in favor of packaging mobile applications in Adobe AIR.

The Flash Player haters quickly picked up this news and to draw attention to their blogs/tabloids started to cash on Steve Job’s name starting that he won the battle with Adobe since Steve was the one who didn’t let Flash Player on iOS.

As of now, I don’t know if these rumors are valid, but even if they are, this ain’t breaking news. Let me explain why in three simple sentences.

1. Adobe AIR includes Flash Player
2. Adobe AIR remains the main and the only means (at the time of this writing) for development of cross-platform mobile applications
3. Adobe AIR 3 Captive Runtime is a way of packaging the runtime inside the mobile application.

In other words, a mobile application developed in Adobe AIR and deployed in Android or iOS has inside the entire AIR runtime (this increases the size of the app only by 6-8MB) and won’t require neither iOS nor Android to ship the proper version of the runtime separately.

Once again, your mobile application has AIR inside, which, in turn, has Flash player under the hood. Machinarium is a good example of a console-quality game for iPad written in Adobe AIR.

The only question remains what will happen with Web pages that includes the videos requiring Flash Player. Most likely Web browsers will use HTML5-based video players. But let’s not confuse mobile applications and Web sites.

Anyway, no need to mourn. Have a wonderful day!

Update. The morning after

Next morning, Danny Winokur, Adobe's VP and General Manager published a blog confirming the information from Adoleaks. This caused a storm of posts in the blogosphere, which predominantly blamed Adobe for betrayal. Peter Elst, an independent Flash developer even started gathering signatures to have Adobe CEO realize that he's a bad guy and step down. Our company, Farata Systems, has been working with Adobe's product that were relying on Flash Player for more than five years, and we managed to build great relations with lots of corporate customers who used our services in building Flash-based rich Internet applications. After the announcement we started getting questions - was Flex the right choice? Can we reuse our investments in Flex in the mobile space? Should we abandon Flex and switched to HTML5 and JavaScript? Adobe have caused serious damage to their image by having Mr. Winokur writing this infamous blog. I'm sure the top management of the company has approved it so Danny Winokur bears only a partial responsibility for this. My question is why Adobe decided to use one person's blog for spreading this rather important news instead of publishing press release prepared with collaboration with their PR agency? Were their top executives ashamed to state it in a manly fashion? Professionally prepared press release could have include the proper wording along with the quotes of industry analysts who would offer their interpretation of the news. Have anyone seen an official PR on this subject? I didn't. I guess, after Adobe's executives realized the size of the damage caused by that unfortunate blog (I hope Mr. Winokur is still employed with the firm), they asked other managers and technical evangelists to save the situation. Have a read:

1. Your Questions About Flex by Andrew Shorten & Deepa Subramaniam. Nice try, but these guys failed to deliver the main message: Adobe AIR 3 is a solid replacement of Flash Player for the mobile.

2. Adobe's technical evangelist Lee Brimelow has mentioned AIR, but has deliver another wrong message, "No longer having to support the mobile browser version of Flash frees up valuable resources that we can redirect to these more important areas." This is yet another mistake. Does Abobe put their customers first, or the most important goal is to do a reorg after laying off 750 people?

3. Mike Chambers, the lead product manager, speaks about AIR, but this message can be understood only by techies, and not corporate clients who were sitting on the fence trying to decide if they should develop with Flash or go with HTML 5. And we are talking about the corporate world that brings a huge portion of Adobe's revenues.

4. Ben Forta, the Director of Technical Evangelism stated "For in-browser experiences on devices, browsers can finally do what they really should do, and we have HTML5 to thank for that." Really? Who's ready to start the development of their next cross-platform enterprise project using HTML5 and JavaScript? Does Adobe or any other company have any production-grade solution in this area? Would love to hear about such tools. Why people didn't realize that Steve Jobs was heavily promoting writing pixel-perfect applications for iOS-powered devices, not Web pages? Adobe AIR 3 fits this bill. And as I wrote earlier, replacing engines in the browser-embedded Flash videos with HTML-5 one is not a major undertaking.

So what the mobile world as the result of this misinterpreted Adobe's announcement? Nothing. MXML, ActionScript, Flex framework, and AIR 3 remain the tools of choice for cross-platform mobile applications. When HTML5 can be considered as a main choice for development of applications for both mobile and desktop platforms? It may happen several years from now. It's great that Adobe is working into this direction, but they should have done it in parallel, not by stopping development of Flash Player without offering HTML5 alternative. Anyway, the damage is done. Adobe spent years to become a recognized tool maker for the enterprise developers.

Five years ago they were known as a company that created Photoshop. They managed to change this image. I really hope that they will find a way to remain on this market.

Here's my message to Flex, Flash, and AIR developers: "All IT shops that have invested in learning Flex or ActionScript for developing their desktop-based Rich Internet Applications will use these skills in development of the mobile applications in Adobe AIR. There is no need to jump the ship"

P.S. After publishing this update I've learned that Oliver Goldman, a tech lead from the AIR team has been moved to the team that develops creative cloud. It's time for Adobe to give away AIR to open source too.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).