Adobe has confirmed that there will be no official Flash Player for the latest Android OS, bringing an end to the troubled history of mobile Flash, and hopefully a better future with HTML5. Guy Daniels reports.
Don’t say we weren’t warned. When Adobe announced last November that is would be discontinuing its development of Flash Player for mobile browsers, it meant it. Last Friday it confirmed that it will be withdrawing access to new downloads from the Google Play store as of August 15. It will only provide limited updates only to those Android devices that have the player pre-installed.
Flash Player was doomed five years ago, when the iPhone launched without the browser plug-in. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was critical of Flash, claiming it was a drain on the battery and processor resources, and refused to have it in any of his mobile devices. This is part of Jobs’ memorable dismissal of Flash:
“Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short. New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too).”
As the iPhone commenced its relentless assault on smartphone market share, it encouraged increasing numbers of developers to support HTML5 instead.
Google and Facebook are both actively supporting HTML5 adoption as well. Microsoft later sided with Apple, by disallowing mobile Flash on its Windows Phone OS (although the latest rumours suggest that Windows RT for the Surface tablet will include an integrated version of the Windows Flash player...) It was only RIM that publically supported the ongoing development of Flash Player for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and the least said about RIM at the moment the better.
The performance of Flash on Android handsets varies greatly between devices – and has been particularly troublesome on early Android tablets. At least Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet will avoid any Flash issues – running on Android 4.1, it won’t be supported by Adobe:
“We have not continued developing and testing Flash Player for this new version of Android and its available browser options. There will be no certified implementations of Flash Player for Android 4.1. Devices that do not have Flash Player already installed are increasingly likely to be incompatible with Flash Player and will no longer be able to install it from the Google Play Store after August 15th.”
It is technically possible for a Nexus 7 owner (or any smartphone running 4.1 Jelly Bean) to visit the Google Play store and download Flash Player before August 17, but they do so at their own risk – neither Adobe nor the device manufacturer will offer support services. Here’s Adobe’s warning:
“If a device is upgraded from Android 4.0 to Android 4.1, the current version of Flash Player may exhibit unpredictable behaviour, as it is not certified for use with Android 4.1. Future updates to Flash Player will not work. We recommend uninstalling Flash Player on devices which have been upgraded to Android 4.1.”
Adobe says it will be focusing its work with Flash on PC browsing and mobile apps packaged with Adobe AIR, as well as pushing HTML5 development. Developers needing ongoing access to released versions of Flash Player for Android can still access old archived versions.
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