If you were still wondering when Flash would come to the iPad: How about never? Does never work for you?
Adobe is giving up on making Flash a factor on the mobile web. The San Jose, Calif., firm announced this morning that it would stop developing its multimedia plug-in for smart phones and tablets (confirming a scoop by ZDNet's Jason Perlow last night) and would instead pitch that software as a way to build mobile apps. Adobe's post credited the rise of the HTML5 web standard:
Somewhere, Steve Jobs must be smiling. The Apple co-founder refused to allow Flash on the iPhone and iPad and laid out his objections to it in a "Thoughts on Flash" essay in April of 2010. Some of his complaints looked thin, but Jobs appears correct in calling out Flash's poor performance on mobile devices.
Adobe talked a big game about how well Flash would run on Android. But when I tried watching Flash clips or presentations on devices like Acer's A100 tablet or HP's TouchPad, I saw the same sluggish start-up of the Flash plug-in that I've grown to resent in Mac OS X and Windows. Things weren't any better on the last two Android phones I tried (though in that case, Flash support didn't even seem worth mentioning).
In some cases, TV and movie studios undercut a primary reason for Flash support – watching web video — by blocking users of gadgets like Google TV receivers from viewing clips.
Meanwhile, a lack of Flash hasn't held back the iPhone and iPad, even if I still get the occasional complaint from iOS users who can't get anywhere on a Flash-based site.
Web developers can now stop hoping that Flash will gain traction in the mobile market; they should take the hint and convert phone and tablet sites to rely on HTML5. (Discovery News uses Flash for videos and slide shows, but the site is working to add HTML5 to its repertoire.)
But what about the desktop? Adobe says it will keep developing Flash for OS X and Windows (except for the tablet-oriented "Metro" version of the upcoming Windows 8, which won't support Flash or other plug-ins), but should developers keep supporting Flash?
Despite recent improvements, Flash continues to suck down more processor cycles and memory than I'd like. It demands a steady stream of patches for security flaws targeted by malware authors, even as its update process has required irritating extra steps.
Developers who switch to HTML5 to appease visitors on mobile devices can also free desktop users from Flash, with one exception, video. There, browser vendors have taken mutually opposing stances on possible Flash replacements: an open-source, royalty-free technology called webM (backed by Mozilla Firefox and Google's Chrome) and a commercial, non-free format known as h.264 (in Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Apple's Safari).
Until they can settle this feud, Web developers may find it's easier to keep posting clips in Flash format. And users may find it's a little too soon to drag Flash to the trash.
Credit: Rob Pegoraro/Discovery