Adobe Systems is halting development of its Flash Player plug-in for mobile browsers, ending a controversy that began when Apple refused to support Flash on its mobile devices.
News of Adobe's decision followed an announcement late Tuesday that the company is restructuring to focus on digital media and digital marketing products and will lay off 750 employees in the U.S. and Europe.
"HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," said Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager of interactive development at Adobe, in a blog post this morning. "This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.
"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," Winokur said. "We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook. We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations."
The executive said the change will allow Adobe to increase its investment in HTML5 "and innovate with Flash where it can have the most impact for the industry," such as advanced gaming and premium video. The company recently introduced Flash Player 11 for PC browsers and Flash Player 12 is under development.
Apple and Adobe executives engaged in a war of words last year when Apple refused to support Flash on its iPhone smartphones and iPad tablet computer. That followed a lengthy blog written by Apple CEO Steve Jobs that called Flash technology "proprietary" and criticized its security, reliability and performance.
"HTML5 is coming on strong as a standard, accelerated by the speed of change of hardware devices," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa in an e-mailed comment. "By 2013 we will reach a point where 90 percent of smartphones and tablets will sport HTML5 capable browsers. In this light, having a large cadre of staff working on putting Flash on every mobile device on the planet appears to be unnecessary and an unwise use of resources.
"Adobe is smart to let go, though it is leaving the choice in hardware makers’ hands as to delivering future updates to the Flash browser plugin beyond version 11.1," Hilwa said.