Thoughts on the Demise of Flash


[When I posted my glee at this announcement, a friend asked: “Could you explain what this means in English? How is it going to change what I can do on my Blackberry?”]

TL;DR? Jump to the direct impact on you.

It has been a crazy week. I have composed pieces of this in my head in spare moments, so hopefully it’s just a matter of getting them down and tying them together. Hopefully the days of rumination will have distilled out some of the prosthelytizing I will inevitably do.

So, assuming you haven’t already figured it out, what does [Adobe killing [mobile] Flash] mean for you and your Crackberry? I’m honestly not sure, but I have some thoughts:

Taking a step back, it is a tacit admission (murky marketing-speak notwithstanding) that Flash1, would take too much (additional) effort to shoehorn onto mobile platforms. And also that the few abortive forays into the mobile space have not really been viable. (Which is interesting given the PlayBook, which we’ll get to in a moment)

It is also an admission that everyone’s energy is better spent developing open-standards based web applications. This is something that many of us have been saying for a while, but only recently has it even partially viable2. And it is to Adobe’s immense credit that they’ve seen the handwriting on the wall and have taken the hard turn. So many companies who “own” a technology that defines, for better or worse, a space are more likely to bury their head in the sand and plow along insisting they’re still relevant. Right up until they fold.

But what does this mean to you, a Blackberry user? I don’t think it means much in the short term. It means you won’t see a Flash player on your device, but I don’t think that you have one now.

It also means that app developers can focus attention on building HTML 5-based applications/sites that degrade gracefully, yet consistently for less capable browsers (like, quite frankly, the BB browser), are much better adapted for accessibility (and by extension search engines and possibly the Semantic Web). And that browser developers can focus on delivering a consistent, standards-compliant experience (which RIM needs to do in a hurry, but more on that in a moment)

As for the longer term? That’s trickier, and a further twist was introduced within the last few days: See, RIM bet the farm on Flash with the PlayBook, and this announcement put them between a rock & a hard place. A few days afterward they announced that they were licensing the source from Adobe to continue updating it for the PlayBook.

In the long run this could be better for the PlayBook: they can customize it more for their particular hardware, and they don’t have to wait for Adobe to fix bugs.

But it is by no means a guaranteed win. And it definitely means that they’ll need more resources in the project (either people or time, and I know what I’d bet on), and the most likely source of those is the BB browser team, which will likely cause it to lag even further behind everyone else.

And none of this mentions the very (thoughtful) analysis in past months on the less-than-rosy outlook for RIM and the head-in-the-sand mentality of their co-CEOs. But I have babbled enough.

1 Flash, a technology designed for desktops (originally a stripped-down version of Shockwave for the web)

2 HTML5, while still very immature shows great, great promise. But I am not so idealistic (anymore) to believe that it will pan out exactly as we hope.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Erik Ogan published on November 16, 2011 9:16 PM.

Golden Gate Social Ride (Special Edition) was the previous entry in this blog.

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