Sayonara Mobile Flash

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With the news that Adobe removed Flash Player for Android from Google Play last week, the sun has set on Mobile Flash. What next for the technology?

No Jellybean, no Play

flash_mobile_sunset
Just two months ago it was announced that Flash Player would no longer be supported in the new Android 4.1 (Jellybean) but would continue to run and be updated on earlier versions of the operating system.

That Adobe would decide to take Flash Player out of Google Play (the Android app store) altogether on August 15th came as a surprise to many.

Ever since Steve Jobs’ published his Flash-bashing open letter in April 2010 explaining why Apple would not support the technology on iOS devices, mobile Flash has had a rough ride.

Flash Lite

Adobe first announced in November 2011 that it would cease development for Flash on mobile devices.
The original mobile Flash offering was Flash Lite, a reduced version of the desktop player with lower hardware requirements that made its debut back in 2003 on a Japanese NTT DoCoMo handset and saw its final update in 2010.
Only marginally popular in English-speaking territories, Japan was the country that really took to Flash Lite where it became the de facto standard for animated wallpapers, screensavers and, most importantly, paid games on millions of Keitai Denwa (pre-smartphone mobile phones).
Despite its obsolescence, Flash Lite is still a major component of the very lucrative mobile games industry in Japan at time of writing, while both content providers and consumers make a gradual transition over to iOS and Android.

Flash on Android

From version 2.2 (FroYo, released May 2010) Android was touted as the best platform for people who wanted to use full-blown desktop Flash on a mobile device, ‘And you can see Flash’ becoming one of the most used jibes aimed by Android fans at their enemy in the Apple camp.
Being able to access countless video players, games, applications and all-Flash sites on the move was an enticing idea. The reality was a little different – shoehorning the desktop Flash Player into a smartphone just meant black screens, long waits, stuttering performance and warm hands for a lot of users.
The iPhone and iPad’s popularity wasn’t helping things – it only served to speed up the move to Web Apps built using free, open HTML5 and JavaScript that are accessible on either iOS or Android, removing the need to have Flash on a smartphone or tablet for the average consumer.

Meanwhile, over on the desktop…

Desktop Flash continues to survive. After all, it is still installed on millions of the world’s PCs, though this number will no doubt dwindle as more people upgrade hardware and operating systems and, in the case of domestic users, make the switch to a tablet.

The last three strongholds of Flash on the desktop are video players, games and advertising. So how is their future looking?

  • Video players

    For freely available content Flash is very much under threat as all modern desktop, smartphone and tablet browsers now support HTML5 video without the need for a separate plugin.
    King of the hill YouTube offers an HTML5 alternative to their regular Flash-based video player and access to their videos by way of native iOS and Android apps.
    Where Flash still shines in the video arena is on premium sites with restricted access content like Hulu.

  • Games

    Open standards HTML5 and JavaScript are fast catching up with what could only have been achieved in Flash until a few years ago. Google doodles celebrating PacMan and the 2012 London Olympics, and Rovio’s excellent Angry Birds Chrome are prime examples of browser-based games that can be built without using Flash at all.
    While this may be enough for simple, 2D, casual games, Adobe are developing desktop Flash to offer 3D graphics on a par with gaming consoles. Also popular Facebook games such as Farmville and most premium games on the Web are built using Flash, so desktop Flash gaming isn’t likely to vanish anytime soon, but will further pander to its niche markets while HTML5 becomes the standard for free 2D offerings.

  • Advertising

    Until there’s a surefire, cross-platform, cross-browser way to bombard users with moving, expanding, floating, popping, whizzing, screaming banner ads in HTML5, Flash is still the winner here for the time being. In order to maximize coverage, HTML5 ads are already the norm on smartphones. Once a critical mass of desktop OS/browser support for HTML5 is reached the switch for advertising too is inevitable.

ActionScript

Adobe’s ActionScript was originally a simple scripting language created to control Flash movies but has grown into a very powerful Object Oriented Programming Language that can be used to create standalone applications for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux with the help of Adobe AIR. Even if Flash as we know it disappears, the coding technology behind it may well live on in other, less obvious forms.

Content creation tools

Adobe are well-prepared for the new standards, concentrating product development efforts on HTML5 authoring software such as Edge and Dreamweaver+Phonegap while continuing to improve desktop Flash for Windows and Mac. Some suggest that this was always the plan even prior to the problems with Apple, referencing Adobe roadmap documentation released in February 2012.

Do you still have Flash content on your website?

To boost your current audience and extend your reach we recommend porting the Flash elements of your website to HTML5+JavaScript in addition to using a responsive design for your web pages that will optimize their display on mobile devices.
Or instead of a regular website, how about seizing the chance to design a unique, all-new Web App that works for desktop, smartphone and tablet users?
Contact METHOD IT for English-Japanese bilingual Web Design/Development and iPhone/iPad/Android Development solutions.

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