Mobility

Demise of mobile Flash may accelerate growth of mobile Web

Writing applications that run in a browser, instead of the native OS, changed the way the world viewed PC software. The end of mobile Flash may be a precursor to the same revolution on mobile devices.

Adobe's announcement yesterday that it's discontinuing development of its Flash platform for mobile devices has fueled speculation that the future of mobile applications resides in the browser, not on specific platforms.

In its official announcement, Abode conceded the points long made by critics, including Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs, that HTML5 and other Web-centric technologies have emerged as the most viable delivery vehicle for rich mobile apps. For one, Flash tends to be resource-intensive and a little glitchy on relatively low-powered mobile devices. For another, HTML5 is a broadly open language. And lastly, Apple simply refused to support Flash on its bellwether iPhone and iPad devices. (You can find an extensive history of the Adobe-Apple spat over Flash at CBS News).

Adobe says it now will focus on its Abode AIR runtime environment and developer toolkits, but will continue to support mobile Flash with bug fixes. And RIM, which along with other mobile platform owners has marketed Flash support as a differentiator against the iPhone, has pledged to continue developing its own mobile Flash player technology, according to a report at PCMag.com.

Still, many observers have taken mobile Flash's demise as a clear signal that mobile apps are moving to the browser, perhaps sooner rather than later. Electronista reports speculation that Microsoft may drop its Silverlight mobile platform after the expected release of version 5 this month. And an interesting think piece at DevBeat quotes Mozilla VP Jay Sullivan and other HTML5-plus-JavaScript evangelists as predicting that apps written natively for specific mobile operating systems are rapidly going the way of the floppy disk.

Of course, barriers remain to immediate dominance of the mobile Web app model. For one: Developers need an easy way to market such products. And mobile users have come to expect a very specific set of behaviors from native apps that currently are tough to replicate in the browser. DevBeat quotes Appcelerator co-founder Jeff Haynie as saying:

"... those compelling native experiences across lots of devices are where [developers'] opportunity is going to be in the near-term. Consumers have come to expect a very high bar from experience, like the Flipboards and Instagrams that you just can't achieve now with a web app."

Do you plan to quickly migrate your mobile dev projects to HTML5 and other Web-based technologies? Or do you see a solid future in native application development?

About

Ken Hardin is a freelance writer and business analyst with more than two decades in technology media and product development. Before founding his own consultancy, Clarity Answers LLC, Ken was a member of the start-up team and an executive with TechRe...

2 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

Native apps have several advantages, the biggest being speed and control. With a browser you need to worry about which browser, browser version, installed addins, and underlying OS support for various functions (such as 3D).

TheWerewolf
TheWerewolf like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

"Writing applications that run in a browser, instead of the native OS, changed the way the world viewed PC software. The end of mobile Flash may be a precursor to the same revolution on mobile devices." If you take a look at the iPhone and Android, you'll notice that what actually happened is that the lack of Flash has led to the proliferation of platform specific *applications* that are nothing more than webscrapers. Why is there a BBC iPlayer application for the iPad when there's a web-based version? Because you can get much richer and cleaner experience when you write a native app. What's unfortunate is that everyone has entirely misread what Jobs said and more importantly *why* he said it - and because we have a coincidence, are making really bizarre conclusions. For example... Flash is dead. No, not really - there are billions (literally) of desktop and laptop systems. Those will keep Flash alive for quite a long time. Mobile Flash didn't die - it never got born. Apple refused to allow it on their platforms. Android couldn't handle it until recently and then it was a crap shoot as to which actual device could or could not support it because of the highly fragmented nature of the Android platform. (Note: same problem exists for video calling). Adobe could either spend massive amounts of time chasing this constantly moving target for very little revenue - or get out. A sane company would have just waited.

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