Apple got no shortage of criticism for not allowing Flash in the iOS version of Safari, but its stubbornness has paid off. On Adobe's developer blog this morning, the software firm announced that it's calling it quits and plans to retire Flash Player for mobile devices. Or, in the company's words, "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."
Whoa. Why the drastic change of heart? Adobe justifies the move by pointing out that the industry is heading toward HTML5—words once uttered by Steve Jobs to justify his shunning of the technology. Flash on mobile devices will live on, but only in the form of native, packaged apps put together using Adobe's AIR runtime. Meanwhile, Adobe intends to increase its investment in HTML5 and collaborate on "HTML5 innovation" with companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and RIM.
Adobe doesn't plan to discontinue Flash Player on the PC and says it hopes to "innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry, including advanced gaming and premium video." In the next paragraph of the blog post, however, the company talks about shaping future versions of the software "for a smooth transition to HTML5 as the standards evolve." Adobe goes on to note, "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."
I won't be sad to see Flash Player gone from handhelds. In-browser Flash on those devices often makes for a lousy experience, with choppy video playback and generally poor performance. Today's move clearly has to do with more than handhelds, though. Adobe seems to be betting on HTML5 big time, which could spell the end of Flash as we know it today. If that means a more lively and more open web, perhaps it's for the better.