If you had any doubts, Adobe is clearly abandoning Flash with the annoucments of the discontinuance of Flash development on Mobile OS plus  the new declaration of the outsourcing of Flex, the Flash Enterprise Development tool, to  the Apache Foundation. These actions should dispel any misconceptions. True,  Apache is a major enterprise Open Source provider with dozens of important Open Source projects including Ant RSS feeds, Hadoop distributed filesystem, HTTP Server, Struts Java Web Application Framework, and Subversion centralized version control system. But the abruptness of the one-sided proclamation[Apache Foundation has yet to agree to take on Flex], indicates Adobe is in full Hasty Retreat Mode. Now the whole question is how many nifty Adobe babies [innovations] will be thrown out in the Flash-exit plumes?

Is this a Hasty Exit?

Ye Editor thinks so  for the following reasons.

There are a few rationals in support of abandoning Flash on mobile OS and leaving Flex as an orphan to the Apache Foundation. First, Flash has and apparently will continue to be along with Java a Verboten development tool on Apple’ systems  both Mac and iOS. Second, at anytime, Adobe’s AIR which provide a backdoor entry into iOS [but not yet Mac] for Flash SWF files, could be arbitrarily declared programma non grata and forbidden on iOS and/or Mac. Third, Flash is showing its 14 year age on the design and programming front as it does not provide good models for 3D movement and animation [the z-cordinate problem],clean  synchronizations among key elements of  time, scene, sound, stage  plus  the universal threading and multi-core processor mapping mechanisms.  Fourth, Adobe and or some other 3rd party[Google  Dart or some  animation startup??] may have a better animator ready to hit the Web and prempt the older Flash code base. Fifth, Flash has been banned from use on Windows Phone 7.

But in favor of Flash and Flex are the following factors:

1)hardware improvements in processors [think NVidia’s Tegra3 and other QuadCore mobile chips], memory [both processor and SSDisk], , displays and most importantly easily dockable smartphones and tablets will be the winning mobile form factor as seen in Asus Tranformer Prime for tablets and the many dockable smartphones .  In short, dockable smartphones and tablets will have mobiles bending/curving back onto and replacing laptops and notebooks in the PC market for all but the most compute intensive tasks. This is a venue where the Flash player excels.
2)the Flash player has become ever faster and uniquely feature capable.
3)the Flash player has become more secure and reliable.
4)the Flash player was falsely indicted and disparaged by Apple’s Steve Jobs as Apple’s own Quicktime had similar performance and reliability problems even though it benefited from Apple APIs  denied to Adobe’s Flash Player. Adobe was put in the unenviable position of having to sue for libel and/or anttitrust from a “partner” whose platforms make up as much as  75% of Adobe’s sales.
5)Adobe AIR is highly dependent on Flex and Flash developers and tools.
6)Adobe AIR is the last cross platform development tool that spans all the major and popular operating systems. HTML5 is emphatically not as  cross platform nor as performant as AIR/Flash.

The Hazards of Innovation

Here is another illustration of the precariousness of technology development. Excellence and continuing great innovation do not always win – cornering a market with no dependencies on other players  is  even more vital. Sometimes technology innovation succeeds beyond compare. And other times as in the case of Flash, it crashes ignominiously  as external “competitive” market forces doom a technology before it reaches full fruition. Flash is a prototypical example along with Opera browser and the Palm PDA among others. Flash for fourteen years since 1997 has been the most innovative delivery container for media on the PC and Web:
1)First in allowing both vector and bitmap image files to be deployed with high fidelity and storage efficiency;
2)First in  incorporating both audio and video with great efficiency;
3)First to allow for user programming with JavaScript-like ActionScript;
4)First to allow storing of Font Types and CSS with animations;
5)First to bring  OO programming to Flash scripting;
6)Continuing lead in most efficient storage of all animation elements in a cross platform animation/multimedia container.
But Flash has been brought low by Steve Jobs spite and perceived need to not allow cross platform tools in on iOS.

Opera has a similar record in bring new innovations in Web browsing while Palm lead early with hardware integration of media consumables in a light, portable and programmable device which easily displacing Apples Newton. But none of these products has “lived long and prospered”. However,  even a corner on the PC Market has not been enough to guarantee Microsoft’s animation tool- Silverlight’s survival in the media animation and delivery market. Are innovation markets becoming too disruptive?

So one could argue that if Adobe waited just a half year or so, the market for the Flash Player would turn in Adobe’s favor as Android and other mobile OS take over the tablet and smartphone markets. And for this reason Apple would have to contemplate removing its ban on Flash in both Adobe Mac App Store and on the iOS for its mobile devices. Yes, this would have a second big benefit for Adobe – it would reduce reduce Adobe’s dependence on Apple because a)other vendors would contribute to Adobe’s market share, particularly i

Consequences of Flash/Flex Demise

First and foremost, the Flash/Flex development community in its comments on the announcements feels betrayed by Adobe. See here for comments at the Flex announcement and see here for  no more  Flash on Mobile OS. The reaction is rangers from anger and disbelief to deep questionning of Adobe’s support for developers. Clearly Adobe has more than a PR problem. But also Adobe has a significant problem with one of it crown development jewels – Adobe AIR.

Now Adobe AIR is important because Adobe AIR is the only viable and performant cross platform development tool that works on the major PC, Mobile and Server operating systems. If you want to write once and deploy on the most popular OS and their associated devices plus customers, Adobe’s AIR is one of the best systems for doing so for the following reasons:
1)it runs on the major OS platforms: Mac and iOS[for now], Linux, Windows, Android, BlackberryX, Nokia MeeGo, etc.
2)it provides all the latest tablet/smartphone operations like touch screen and gestures ready to go on desktop platforms. In contrast HTML5 is in a mess on touch support cross platform.
3)AIR is the only tool that provides cross platform offline as well as online operations.
4)AIR provides robust database access and update mechanisms another area of conflict in HTML5.
5)AIR has a robust set of communication and video interfacing options.
6)AIR provides the key to Adobe’s own survival – presence on many platforms, less dependence on the Apple platform.
7)Businesses are desperate for getting out of the need to develop the same program for multiple platforms. They have hung back from embracing Apple because this means replacing the Windows monopoly with an Apple monopoly. And now Apple means only one set of development tools for the iOS  platform – not a good  prospect for internal let alone  cross platform development. True, security is enhanced because the iOS apps have to go through an approval process; but the downside is how vigilant Apple is on updates. And finally, the great overhang for developers, corporates, and OEMs alike are the many arbitrary rules on Apple app development that can suddenly pop up like mushrooms.

Is there any chance of rescuing AIR ? Given that Flash will continue on as the desktop development tool for advanced graphics, 3D modeling , game, and highend “near cross platform” apps, there is at least a smaller  market available. However, Adobe and 3rd party .swf software suppliers like Erain, Swishmax, Autodesk and others will have to contend with a declining base of Flash developers that will be moving to HTML5 and other animation software. Will there  be enough remaining developers   to sustain AIR? Perhaps, if the collapse of the Apple iOS to an equally specialized, premium priced niche as predicted by the first commenter on the fate of Flex proves true, then Apple will no longer be such a dominant player. With a super disruptive technology marketplace [see the sidebar on The Hazards of Innovation]plus the history of Macs versus PCs plus Steve Jobs own recognition that Androids success required a thermonuclear response from Apple, who know what will be the ultimate outcome for AIR and Flash? Only the Shadow knows…

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