The Rumors of Flash Player’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated

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 stating 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”

Update 2. 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.

Update 3. Two weeks after the infamous blog of Danny Winokur was published, Adobe made a statement explaining its upcoming strategic transformations.

Yakov Fain

22 thoughts on “The Rumors of Flash Player’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated

  1. He’s not moving. He’s been moved by the management. This is not good, but from a practical point of view, if anyone would ask me what tool to use for the cross-platform mobile development, I’d say there is no other choice but AIR. When something else will come close I’ll reconsider.

    It’s not going to happen within the next couple of years (I’m talking about the enterprise-grade development tools producing great results). I believe, Adobe should give away AIR to the open source.

  2. so no more new features for flash player for mobiles? who cares i dont.
    using website on mobile (with or without flash) is really painful (even on 7″ galaxy)
    so option is to create native applications (1 for ios 1 for android 1 for berry 1 for win)
    or use air for mobile which i prefer.

    anyway development air mobile is faster than native ios or android app in 4x times

  3. I can see the only one reason for Adobe’s to make such an explicit move – to increase the loyalty of flash-haters to Adobe brand itself, especially they try to target the ones who blindly follows Jobs’ (R.I.P.) criticism of Flash. So — Adobe crucifies Flash in public, the crowds are happy now, and we can finally move on with mobile Flash inside Adobe AIR (tss!!!… if they hear there’s still some Flash on mobile (and it’s getting BIG), the hatred towards Flash will explode again).

    Jobs was right when he blamed the whole class of the applications in mobile browsers. He just wrongly named it ‘Flash’, and it’s not fair because actually there are still no real powerful applications in the mobile browsers, HTML5 doesn’t fix it. For example, I still can’t use Google Docs (sic!) on my iPad. Probably, Flash could become the solution for some cases, but let’s forget about it – actually it seems mobile browsers just are really poor to provide enough system resources to applications in mobile browsers.

    So, maybe Adobe is just trying to finally get rid of bad Flash brand using the momentum – while crowds are still crying for Jobs, Adobe is trying to sacrifice Flash for him, hoping for some love from His followers.

  4. Yakov,
    I think we all can agree that HTML5 is not for Enterprises. In the short term companies will hire Farata to port Flex to both Android and iOS using native toolkit ( as expected early adoption/hedging always pays off). In the long term, we need to talk internally how much business needs to be moved to native platforms, and how much can sustain the current Adobe direction.
    I would start offering training in native platforms for former Flex developers right away. Seems like much needed book as well.
    We need to help this great community to weather the blow. I see number of client’s competing teams that spent the last 10 years developing HTML3 solutions taking over RIA place with obsolete technologies just because Adobe screwed up their transition policy. We need to provide community with viable productive path without sacrificing functionality.


  5. Dear Farata Systems,

    Great comment, could you please also say something regarding flex after 4.6, going opensource and spoon project?
    Thank you
    Kind regards
    fellow flex developer

    • @Martin It’s hard to predict. in general, when I hear that a corporation gives a piece of software to open source, it tells me that this corp doesn’t want it. But there are great exceptions to this rule. For example, IBM has given away $40M worth of code to Eclipse foundation, and now Eclipse is #1 IDE in the Java world.

      If you ask me about the future of Flash Builder if Adobe would give it to the open source community, it would be in a lot better shape than it is now. I have no trust in abilities of Adobe’s team working on this product.

      As to Flex SDK, it all depends if the crowd will be interested in this technology. All these layoffs (second year in a row) show that Adobe’s top management can’t run the company as a business enterprise. Requests of Peter Elst asking to fire Adobe’s CEO are naive, but not stupid.

  6. You say “there is no other choice but AIR”.

    Are you aware of Corona, Titanium, Unity, Phone Gap?

    I’m convinced Cross Platform development will win out, but to say Air is the only way is disingenuous.

    On another note, there is some hope that Flash Pro and Flash Builder will get some sort of HTML5 publish option.

    In the meantime i’m learning Google Dart, wherever my career goes, i’m determined to stick with OOP.

    • @mh I’m not a gamer, but can you TODAY create something like Machinarium with Phone Gap or other frameworks you’ve mentioned? It must run on iOS and Android.

  7. Still seems like Adobe is rust pulling the rug out from under developers using their platform. Not the first time, and no doubt not the last time. Looks like you just have to get used to it if you want to work with Adobe products.

    • Just don’t fall in love neither with software nor with any vendor. Adobe is a commercial enterprise as every other corporation. Their finances are not in a great shape hence they can’t afford to be nice. They are trying to survive and it’s not pretty.

  8. Agree Yakov. I will continue to develop my applications with Flex. When someting more powerful comes, then, maybe I change my choice.

  9. Hello Mr. Fain,
    I am a junior-level Flex+Java developer and have built few desktop enterprise applications using Flex and Java. I am not really concerned about Flex going fully open source but I want to know where we are going with Flex in future. What do think about the future of Flash Player and Adobe AIR.

    Thank you.

  10. “Their finances are not in a great shape hence they can’t afford to be nice.”

    According to their press release, “We expect to report record revenue within the fourth quarter target range we previously issued”

    How are they struggling?

  11. From architecture perspective I have been promoting Adobe Flex + Java solutions for the last 3.5 years. I’m talking about desktop trading and BI applications. I reckon Farata was doing similar kind of jobs. After what happened I believe it’s dangerous to rely on this technology stack. Interestingly, that you are not talking about enterprise anymore. Just Mobile + AIR. Well, the enterprise hasn’t switched to mobile yet. So, it’s time to look for alternatives, in fact, I’ve already started looking for them. Please, give me a good reason not to.

    • There is no alternatives to Flex/AIR if you are in the enterprise market. I’ve been promoting these products because I believed (and still do) that they offer a solid and cost-effective solution.
      But the way Adobe’s top management handled PR in this case is disgusting. Up till today they haven’t offered an official press release regarding their abandoning of Flash Player on mobile. A blog of Danny Winokur, Adobe’s employee is all there is.

      Now imagine that the United States has declared war on some country by asking a congressman to blog about it. The whole nation is worried. The President Obama doesn’t answer phone calls. Neither does the Vice President.

      Shame on both of you, Shantanu Narayen and Kevin Lynch!

  12. Yakov, I couldn’t agree more. I’m listening to Job’s biography and thinking to myself, what will Apple do now that their personality is gone? All these reports about the product road map he left behind, are just that. One thing I believe is that is success at the expense of others can be short lived. I don’t discount his monetary accomplishments at all, but that is not the measure of a human. His legacy will be just how his influence thrives at apple now that he is gone. The first misstep from that company and it may have a real impact on the faithful. And from there who knows? The press loves you on the way up, but man do they like to kick you on the way down!

    So Apple, beware. Who’s your daddy now?

    Adobe leadership, you just had to try to get the stock headed up before Feb. didn’t you? You know I wan in a meeting with some Brightcove engineers and sales people the other day. Smart people in any room. We were all talking about getting those HTML5 Video Players ready for my client, for mobile and “ubiquitous” deployment. I asked a simple question, “So how many content providers do you have in your system right now that provide HTML5 ready content?”. There was a very long pause, and then the lead guy, whom I respect very much, said, “None, only a couple on Apple and we don’t have any right now, but they’re coming!”.

    And this is the video Ad systems arena, a multi-billion dollar industry. Adobe, you just had to take the lead, hell, why not offer to integrate flash player into every browser? Give the browser manufactures the code and release it open source? What would the open standards elite have to say then? Wouldn’t that quash that argument?

    I just don’t get it.

  13. I must admit, I feel a bit paralyzed. I’m a new start-up and I do believe that AIR is fantastic and the best option for enterprise application development. My solution was a multi-tenant enterprise level AIR desktop/Mobile application. Now, I’m not sure if I should move forward.
    I don’t feel comfortable investing in something that may go away before I even have a chance to launch. And, yes, I know that Adobe has said they will continue to invest in AIR, but as more news surfaces about the future of Adobe’s enterprise development investment, it worries me. It’s really too bad. It’s the best thing going!

  14. By ditching Flex, Adobe will likely unwittingly kill revenue streams that they wanted to keep, like the LiveCycle family of products (which includes LCDS, that is now being adapted to HTML 5 and iOS).

    Adobe took years to build credibility in the enterprise. Before Flex 2, Flash was considered a fancy toy by businesses.

    Now, that credibility has been shattered. What company is going to trust them ?

    Flex might not die if the community is active, but Adobe products in the enterprise most certainly will.

    The mismanagement of the communication around this announcement has been a terrible mistake.

    You can try and reassure businesses that everything is fine, but after what you said Adobe, everybody is heading for the door.

    I can only imagine somebody proposing to use an Adobe technology for a new project during a business meeting now. Everybody will turn to him with a strange look expressing something like “You’re kidding, right ?”.

    I give myself 2 years to learn something else while working on legacy Flex projects…

    HTML 5 is indeed not there yet.

    Lazlo, the true inventor of Flex, should come with a revenge.

  15. @Karl Well said. You have a lot more than 2 years though. Nothing happens too fast in the enterprise world. New project have to be developed within certain budget. So next time someone tells you “You’re kidding, right?” get a calculator and estimate the cost of achieving the same goal with other technologies. After that simply say, “I was not kidding”, and head to the door.

    Flex/AIR is bigger than Adobe now. I’m wondering, maybe it’s a good thing that Flex and BlazeDS go to Apache?

    @Ron Ron, if you’re a startup with limited financing, going HTML5 (a.k.a. JavaScript) will get you really paralyzed.

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