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Adobe puts mobile Flash Player on ice

Nov 9, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Adobe has announced plans to restructure and lay off 750 employees. The company added that the current Android and PlayBook versions of its mobile Flash Player will get security updates and bug fixes, that's it: There will be no new versions moving forward.

According to a report first seen on ZDNet, Adobe told developer partners of its plans to stop development of its Flash mobile browser plug-in technology. There is a bit of irony in the news of Adobe halting Flash for mobile development, as another ZDNet report indicates that Microsoft may soon be ending the life of Flash rival technology Silverlight.

Adobe sent a notice out to developers saying:

"Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates."

In a Nov. 8 statement, Adobe officials said the company will focus on two primary markets: digital media and digital marketing: "In digital media, the company is an industry leader in content authoring solutions, enabling customers to create, distribute and monetize digital content. In digital marketing, the company intends to be the leader in solutions to manage, measure and optimize digital marketing and advertising."

Adobe's "Flash everywhere" strategy is no more

Adobe's digital media growth strategy revolves around its recently announced Creative Cloud and will enable it to rapidly deliver new product capabilities and services, penetrate untapped market segments, and increase overall engagement with customers, the company added.

Walter Luh, CEO and co-founder of Ansca and former lead architect of Flash Lite at Adobe, told eWEEK: "Flash just wasn't getting traction. So they had to do something. That something was embracing HTML5 … The irony, of course, is one of the main reasons Adobe acquired Macromedia was because of Flash and the opportunity to play a dominant role in mobile content."

Luh added he is not surprised at Adobe's decision to abandon Flash mobile development, particularly after watching the keynotes at Adobe's MAX 2011 conference. Luh said in previous years, Flash was king. "But this year, Flash was treated as an afterthought, and instead, HTML5 was front and center –with new tools focused on the latter like Adobe Edge," he said.

Adobe Edge is an HTML5 motion and interaction design tool
(Click to enlarge)

According to Luh, when he was at Adobe from 2005-2007 he saw two main problems for Flash in the context of mobile that the company failed to address:

"The first was legacy technology. They had the opportunity to invest in building the next-generation foundation for Flash very early on, but didn't read the hardware trends correctly. Instead of making a bet on smartphones, they focused on [at the time] the mass-market feature phones. The second was ignoring developers. A lot of the early mobile Flash developers wanted to create stand-alone apps, but Adobe wanted to build a mobile platform, so they focused on trying to get distribution of their Web plug-in on mobile phones. There was an impedance mismatch and Adobe just took too long to come to the right conclusions."

Luh and Ansca co-founder Carlos Icaza left Adobe in 2007 and started Ansca Mobile, which produces the Corona SDK for mobile app development, after Adobe refused to overhaul Flash for the then-looming smartphone platform, he said.

Restructuring and layoffs

In addition to the demise of mobile Flash, Adobe announced a company restructuring that will result in the loss of about 750 jobs, primarily in North America and Europe. It said Nov. 8 that it would "further align its business around the growth categories of digital media and digital marketing solutions."

Key elements of the Adobe digital media strategy will include: 

  • continuing to deliver innovation on PCs through its Creative Suite software while extending its customer reach through tablet-based touch apps and cloud-based software delivery
  • shifting resources to support even greater investment in HTML5, through tools like Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Edge and PhoneGap, recently added through the acquisition of Nitobi
  • focusing Flash resources on delivering the most advanced PC web experiences, including gaming and premium video, as well as mobile apps
  • enhancing digital publishing solutions to empower media companies to profit through publishing their content to any screen
  • investing in media monetization, including the large growth opportunity in video advertising, facilitated by the acquisition of Auditude
  • extending its leadership in document services with its Acrobat product line and increasing its focus on the growing category of electronic contracts and signatures through the recent acquisition of EchoSign

Key elements of the Adobe digital marketing strategy include:

  • extending Adobe's position in analytics and reporting to drive rapid growth in new areas like mobile and social
  • personalizing digital experiences across all digital channels, ensuring that customers can deliver the most relevant, customized content in real time
  • driving multichannel campaign management, enabling marketers to make informed decisions about all aspects of a marketing campaign, from search to email to display advertising
  • accelerating media monetization solutions for content publishers by enabling them to segment their audiences and maximize their advertising revenue, leveraging the company's acquisitions of Demdex and Auditude this year

"Our mission is to produce the world's content and maximize the impact of that content," said Shantanu Narayen, Adobe's president and CEO, in a statement. "Adobe is doubling down in the digital media and digital marketing categories, markets rich with opportunities for innovation and growth."

 Darryl K. Taft is a writer for eWEEK. 

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