by Judith Dinowitz, Editor-in-Chief, Fusion Authority
Last night, in the wake of Adobe's announcement that they would be pulling support for Flash Player on mobile devices after the release of Flash Player 11.1, I sat in on a video chat hosted by Sean the Flex Guy (thanks Sean). There were over 100 people in on the chat when I came. People like Lee Brimelow, Adobe's Game Developer Evangelist, and Thibault Imbert, Product Manager for the Adobe Flash Runtimes, mixed it up with community leaders like Joe Flash and R Blank and many others from the Flash, Flex and ColdFusion communities. Twelve video windows were open and people could go in and out to say their piece about the announcement. The rest of us could post thoughts and questions in the application?s chat window. In reality, most of the windows were taken by the same people the whole evening, and one or two of them decided to put on their own show, but for the most part, the discussion was civil and people listened or contributed respectfully. The feeling of unity and cohesiveness in the community and the desire to understand Adobe's direction and combat all the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that?s out there right now were strong.
And there is plenty of FUD to go around, most of it pushed by the news outlets, who have decided that this is the beginning of the end for Flash. I'm talking news sources like ZDNET and Wired, who have declared that Flash is on its way out, and news shows like Tech News Today, who, simply in the way they reported the news, leave the impression that this is the death knell for Flash as a whole.
Why do the news outlets see it this way? After all, Flash player on mobile is only a small part of the Flash ecosystem. Nor is it Adobe's only (or first) effort to put Flash applications on mobile devices. Adobe started with Flash Lite, and then developed AIR... but the news people seem to have forgotten about AIR or discounted it altogether. AIR makes much more sense than having Flash run natively on the device. It creates a small footprint (a must for mobile), and it will run on any desktop, mobile or otherwise. In his blog post, Grant Skinner points out that Steve Jobs? famous open letter to Flash stalled the momentum of the technology on mobile:
"Without iOS, Flash's 'write once, deploy anywhere' story became a lot weaker.... The mobile player requires a huge ongoing investment to support new devices and OSes, an investment that has no (obvious) financial benefit for Adobe." It truly makes more business sense for Adobe to focus on improving AIR, on their tools, and on the Flash player for the desktop.
So this move is a good one, folks. And it should actually help Adobe improve Flash in the long run and help it compete better in the marketplace. Unfortunately, this was all lost on the news media for two major reasons. First, Adobe really messed up in communicating their message. Both R Blank and Matt Gemmell do wonderful jobs explaining why Adobe's communication was a failure. The only thing I can add is that Adobe's press release really gave the wrong message. It did not stress that they had two major mobile initiatives — the Flash player on mobile devices and AIR — and that they were pulling back from one in order to focus on the other. AIR is mentioned in one sentence in paragraph three, and then briefly in paragraph four, but the press release only continues the paradigm that Steve Jobs set up in his Open Letter to Flash and that the news media bought into: the idea that Flash and HTML 5 are in an open war on mobile devices, and one or the other had to win. Implicit in this idea is that everything has to run through the browser. When Jobs came out with his letter, no one challenged this idea and now it has stuck. So much so that the media outlets believe that any technology that doesn't run on mobile browsers is effectively dead. And that is what they are saying in their articles.
If you want to find out more about what Adobe does intend with this move, I would read Lee Brimelow?s or Ben Forta's excellent blog posts. At this point, Adobe and the community need to focus on perfecting and developing AIR so we can show those press guys that the browser is not the be all and end all of the mobile experience!
Judith Dinowitz is the Master Editor-in-Chief of the House of Fusion magazines and journals, where she enjoys serving up ColdFusion and Flex goodness on a weekly and quarterly basis.