Friday, November 11, 2011

Jan Ozer's Thoughts on Why Adobe Abandoned Flash for Mobile

Streaming Media West was abuzz this past week with Adobe's surprising announcement that it will abandon future development of Flash Player for mobile devices following the next release 11.1, and will be more aggressively contribute to HTML5 innovation with key players, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM. Adobe will continue to support its current Flash development. Over the last few years HTML5 and H.264 video have been gaining momentum as an emerging standard for online and mobile video, spurred on by Apple's exclusion of Flash on its popular iDevices and negative press it received from Steve Jobs' Thoughts on Flash. Adobe had developed Flash Player to run on Google's Android and other non-Apple mobile platforms, but its official statement from its blog post now says,"HTML5 is the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."

While Adobe had a strong presence at Streaming Media West with its Platinum sponsorship of the conference, prominent spot on the exhibit floor and usual pre-conference session with Kevin Towes, the company was tight lipped about why it decided to withdraw Flash from the mobile market. I caught up with Jan Ozer, Video Producer, Writer, Publisher of and author of Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5, to get his perspective on the implications of the announcement for the online video industry, mobile developers and consumers.

Ozer says Adobe made this move for three reasons. Number one, they were fighting against the current at least with Apple, and then with Microsoft's recent announcement about their tablet oriented operating system, they can't fight this. Number two, Ozer says, Adobe wasn't getting then support it needed from Google and other vendors to make Flash work effectively on mobile platforms. The last thing he says is, as computers get more powerful people are building applications that require more power and faster CPUs to run smoothly, and Flash-enabled tablets and phones simply don't have the power to run smoothly and deliver a quality experience.

This doesn't mean that Flash on the desktop is going away anytime soon, and Ozer says that it will actually create a tale of two websites, with a web version that is completely immersive Flash experience, and the other more simple and targeted for mobile devices.
"That's already being done by some vendors like Converse, who, if you visit it with an iPad, sends you to a simple e-commerce site, but if you visit with a computer, sends you to an immersive Flash experience. The other is that many vendors, seeking to minimize development costs, will produce a single site using HTML5 that lacks much of the immersion that Flash can provide." 
While many are saying Adobe's announcement is significant, Ozer points out:
"In terms of video, remember that HTML5 doesn't have many key technologies now being used or implemented by the primary distributers of non-UGC video on the web (networks, studios, etc). These include adaptive streaming, digital rights management (DRM), peer-to-peer delivery, and in the enterprise space, multi-casting. Remember also that at last count (November 9, 2011), the penetration of HTML5 compatible browsers on connected computers was under 60%. Streaming producers are going to need a plug-in based option for several more years, and Flash is the obvious choice. "

He described the implications in greater detail on in this blog post, Adobe to Discontinue Flash for Mobile, and offered this advise to online video publishers.
"If you're a web producer trying to access these mobile devices, your strategy doesn't change much either. You've had to deliver to desktops with one technology and iDevices with another, Android has always been a fractured market. Now you'll likely deliver to all mobiles using a single technology (let's hope) and all desktops with another. Certainly Google's adaption of HTTP Live Streaming in Android 3.0 is a good sign."