Adobe Flash used to be what. Brought “the full. Web”. To mobile devices. Now, Adobe Flash for. Android is gone…and the full. Web is still here.
It’s the end. Of an era: Yesterday, Adobe quietly removed its. Flash Player from. Google Play, meaning Android device owners will. No longer be able. To download and install Adobe Flash to access videos, games. Other Flash-based content on. The Web.
For many mobile users, Flash support was a. Key reason for. Choosing Android over. Apple’s iOS. After all, having. Flash playback provided access to “the full. Web.”. That meant not just. Rich multi-media like. Online video and interactive elements. sometimes. even. Basic site access: there. Are still sites out. there. That rely on. Flash for. Navigation. But Adobe was never able. To deliver on. its. Promise of a. High-performance, touch-centric, battery-friendly version of Flash for. Mobile devices. announced last. Year that it. Was giving up. on. Mobile Flash in. Favour of HTML5 technologies. No, the hammer has fallen.
What can Android users do. If they absolutely have. To continue using Flash? And does. Adobe’s capitulation on. Flash essentially doom the technology — and end. The Adobe’s mobile aspirations?
Flash in. The pan
Adobe has removed (or “unpublished”) Flash Player from. The Google Play store, which. Means that purchasers of new Android devices won’t be able. To add Flash their setups simply by going on line and downloading the software. The removal does. Not mean. That Android devices that currently have. Flash installed suddenly lose it. —. They will. Continue to be able. To access Flash content — at least for. The time being.
Adobe pulled Flash Player from. Google Play because it. Hasn’t developed or certified the software for. use. with. Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean.”. The version of Adobe Player available. from. Google Play has mostly existed to enabling “uncertified”. Installations of Flash Player on. Devices with. Android 4.0 and earlier. While Flash Player generally worked on. Uncertified those. Devices, users were. on. Their own. If issues cropped up.
Devices running Android 4.0 and earlier that already. have. Flash Player will. Continue to be able. To use. The software. Adobe says. it. Plans to issue updates and bug fixes through September 2013. So, Android devices that currently have. Flash aren’t being abandoned — and that includes many brandnew devices available. Today. However, if users upgrade their devices to Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean,”. Flash may. “exhibit unpredictable behavior,”. Adobe says. Future updates won’t work at all. The company recommends uninstalling Flash before upgrading to Jelly Bean. And if a. New device comes with. Jelly Bean or later… Flash won’t be there.
Daring and technically-proficient Android users who want. To install Flash on. Jelly Bean devices — ignoring warnings and recommendations — can apparently do. By side-loading the APK, at least for. Now. Users will. Also have. To enable plug-ins in. Their browser settings. for. Users with. Chrome-only devices like. The Nexus 7, that may. mean. Sideloading Browser or the Android version of Firefox as. well.
How many people are impacted by Flash not supporting Android Jelly Bean? Right now, not many — thanks. To the still-fragmented nature of the Android ecosystem.
According to Google, Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”. Accounted for. less. than. one. Percent of all. Android devices that accessed Google Play in. The last. two. Weeks of July 2012. The most. Common version of Android on. The market remains Android 2.3 “Gingerbread,”. which. Still accounts for. more. Then 60 percent of all. Devices checking in. with. Google Play.
Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”. — which. Was supposed to be a. Real game-changer for. Android and put an end. To pesky fragmentation problems —. Didn’t even. Account for. 16 percent of Android devices in. The same. Period. That figure puts it. Barely ahead of Android 2.2 “Froyo,”. which. Was released more. than. two. Years ago. it. Was the first. Version to support mobile Flash.
That means most. Android device owners are still capable of running Flash — and their versions of Flash will. Continue to get. Updates and fixes from. Adobe for. over. a. Year. Fears of a. Sudden Flash-apocalypse for. Android are a. Little overblown.
Several factors combined to ultimately kill off. Flash for. Android. The root cause. Can be summed up. in. one. Word: Apple.
Apple never made. Room for. Flash on. The iPhone, iPod touch. The iPad. While Android may. Be the top-selling mobile operating system. Now, Apple’s iOS still commands enormous mindshare and revenue. The'ssue came to a. Head back. in. Early 2010 when. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs penned a. rare open letter explaining why Apple’s would. Not embrace Flash in. its. Mobile products. some. Of those. Issues related to business — Flash is a. Proprietary platform, after all. Apple didn't want. Adobe Flash to become. a. De facto standard for. Developing mobile apps, effectively inserting itself. between. Apple and iOS developers.
However, Apple’s other objections centered on. Flash being a. Poor fit for. Mobile technology. Flash was designed with. a. Conventional mouse and keyboard in. Mind. Web-based Flash projects aimed at conventional Web browser tended to translate poorly (and sometimes. Not at all) to a. Touch-based interface. Apple also noted that Flash was a. Top reason its. Macintosh computers crashed. it. Didn’t want. To bring that kind of reliability problem to its. Mobile devices. in. Fact, Apple stopped bundling Flash with. Macs later. That year.
Apple’s other concerns had to do. with. Battery life and security. Mobile versions of Adobe Flash had (and continue to have) a. Significant impact on. Battery life — and the same. Is true. for. Notebook computers, where running Flash (even in. a. Hidden browser tab in. The background) can chomp batteries. Adobe Flash also has a. Security record that can only. Be described. as. Abysmal, both on. Mobile and on. The desktop. when. Did Flash issue its. Latest critical security fix for. The desktop version of Flash? Yesterday. And, yes, the exploit's being used in. The wild. Updating is a. very. Good idea.
It’s easy to chalk Apple’s reasons for. Not supporting Flash on. IOS up. To “sour grapes”. — after all, Steve Jobs was known. for. Being difficult and sometimes. Vindictive. But even. Critics eventually had to concede that Adobe never made. Mobile Flash a. Paragon of reliability, nor. Did the company adequately address battery-consumption issues. (Adobe kept. Promising that the next. Generation of smartphone hardware would. Be much. better. with. Flash…and then the next. Generation. Then the one. After that…) even. Microsoft implicitly side with. Apple when. it. Rolled out. its. Windows Phone 7 platform in. Late 2010, which. Also omitted Flash support. Windows Phone 8 won’t have. it. Either — although Microsoft will. Apparently be supporting Flash on. Windows RT, albeit only. for. a. Handful of whitelisted sites. We’ll see what. it. does. To the battery life of Surface RT devices.
We come to bury mobile Flash, not praise it
Microsoft’s move. To continue supporting Flash in. The Windows RT does. Highlight Flash’s still-present weight on. Web content. Although Adobe used to boast that something like. 75 percent of the Web’s video content was served via Flash, the choice of YouTube and other popular video streaming services to support H.264 video seriously undermined Flash’s ubiquity as. a. Video streaming platform. And, again, much. Of that push had to do. with. Apple: few. Video sites wanted to be incompatible with. Apple’s ever-popular iPhone or iPad. They switched to video technologies fully supported by those. Devices.
But that doesn’t mean. all. Video is available. in. a. Flash-free world. for. example, BBC’s iPlayer relies on. Flash for. Both desktop and mobile video. The BBC says. it. Is working with. Adobe on. An new player for. Android devices. — for. Now — Flash is the only. way. To get. IPlayer on. Android.
Few doubt that HTML5 technologies are the future of Web development, both for. Online video and highly interactive applications such as. Games. However, HTML5 still isn’t as. Mature as. Flash, leading many to lament Adobe’s decision. To abandon mobile Flash as. a. move. That cuts them off. from. some. Of the best material on. The Web.
The future of Flash
With the on line world increasingly migrating to mobile devices — and Adobe abandoning Flash for. Mobile devices — does. Adobe Flash even. have. a. Future?
Well, yes. No. Adobe is continuing to develop Flash for. The desktop, focusing on. two. Core markets: DRM-protected video content. Console-quality gaming. Standards-based H.264 video might. Be all. The rage for. Streaming to iOS and HTML5-savvy browsers. It’s not an ideal solution for. Video-streaming operators who want. (or need) to protect their content from. Being casually pirated. That’s why Netflix for. Macs and PCs relies on. Microsoft Silverlight — a. decision. That company is probably. Reconsidering. Although companies like. Google and Microsoft are pushing for. Standards that would. Enable HTML5 encryption, Adobe is betting it. Can leverage DRM and authorisation technologies for. Flash to step into the void, offering streaming services, movie studios, cable operators. Other paid video services a. way. To stream protected content to customers.
Adobe is also betting Flash’s mature authoring tools and scripting language will. Appeal to game developers — and companies like. Zynga have. certainly. made. a. Mint peddling Flash-based games via the Web. Relieved of the need to support underpowered, small-screen devices like. Smartphones and tablets, Adobe is betting game developers will. Follow Flash to the next. Level by developing high frame-rate, console-quality games using Flash.
Adobe is also keen. To let. Developers know that, just. Because mobile Flash is going away, that doesn’t mean. Adobe is giving up. on. Smartphones. Developers who want. To put video into their Android and iOS applications with. DRM support can use Adobe AIR. This is the most. likely. The route being followed. By the BBC’s iPlayer. Adobe is also leveraging its. Years of experience developing multi-media authoring tools to inform Adobe Edge, which. (loosely) aims to do. for. HTML5 what. Flash did for. Browser plugins.
But the bottom line: Flash will. Never again be a. Ubiquitous Internet technology. Smartphone buyers who chose. Android thinking it. Was superior to iOS because it. Supported Flash will. have. To find replacement apps or services. Eventually, anyway.