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Wherever the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs is, he is probably doing a Snoopy Dance right now.
No, it’s not because Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 4S is breaking sales records. It’s because longtime enemy Adobe Inc. has announced it will stop development on the mobile version of Flash and will instead focus its mobile development on HTML5 technology.
Now, before you label this a geeky technology issue and doze off, bear in mind Flash is the dominant video format at work on websites today. So cutting off the mobile version – at a time when website traffic is increasingly coming from mobile users – will force website owners including major TV content brands to rethink how they deliver video on their sites.
In an Nov. 9 blog posted on Adobe’s website, Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager of interactive development, said the decision to discontinue mobile Flash reflected the fact that HTML5 is now “universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively.”
Other critics rightfully point to another reason: Flash on mobile is a failure too flawed to fix. When streamed to Android phones, Flash video habitually stutters and freezes. It’s a painful experience.
Adobe’s decision is a major posthumous victory for Jobs. A major HTML5 supporter, he despised Flash and banned it from all Apple devices. In a famous scathing blog, he called out Flash for its habit of chewing up device battery life and freezing browsers, and he argued that Flash gave Adobe too much influence over apps development.
One could argue Apple is guilty of the same control by not allowing Flash on its devices. Whatever the case, the end of Flash for mobile will have ramifications.
While it gives mobile content providers a green light to focus exclusively on HTML5-based apps, for those with Flash-based apps it will probably mean major redesign work. Website developers, meanwhile, have already been dealing with the fact Apple devices can’t render Flash. So if that hasn’t convinced them to abandon the format up to now, the end of Flash for all mobile devices might.
And there are some who are now wondering if this also spells the end of Flash itself. That could well be the case, but it probably won’t –pardon the pun – be gone in a flash. In any event, Adobe’s decision will create both pain and possibilities for the video content ecosystem.
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