Going with the flow - Mobile World Live

Going with the flow

15 NOV 2011

With its recently-announced decision to shift its focus for enabling mobile web content to HTML5 from its own Flash technology, Adobe has acknowledged the way that momentum in the content community – and the mobile industry in general – has shifted.

And of course, Adobe is not abandoning Flash for mobile devices totally: Flash-based apps bundled with its Air runtime – which run independently of the device browser – will still be supported. This will enable continued support for apps such as Flash-based games. But when it comes to delivering mobile web content across devices, HTML5 is now the only game in town.

Certainly a few years ago, when the Apple and Adobe spat was at its fiercest, there was a strong argument that Flash was the ideal tool to deliver cross-platform content, especially bearing in mind its existing support from the web design community. In those early days, iPhone users became familiar with the blank spaces where Flash content normally lived when browsing the web.

But since then, the success of iOS has led to the creation of a whole industry developing content for these users, without the need for the cross-platform capabilities offered by Flash. New content is being created with iOS users in mind as well as desktop Internet users, loosening the stranglehold of the Adobe technology in web design circles.

And as RIM discovered with the launch of its PlayBook tablet, Flash support is not much of a selling point in its own right.

Apple alone has not driven the growth of HTML5. Almost across-the-board, this technology is being embraced by device makers and developers, as a way to break the current silos in which Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and other apps currently sit. And while HTML5 support is patchy, it is likely to be widely adopted in mobile browsers for high-end and mid-tier devices – giving developers a much larger addressable user base.

It was also not Apple alone that killed-off Flash for the mobile web, even if its influence was significant. According to a recent survey by Appcelerator and IDC, 66 percent of developers are looking at HTML5 as a platform for future support, putting it slightly behind the various flavours of iOS and Android – and head-and-shoulders ahead of the others. And if you have pinned your colours to the HTML5 mast, why would you also support Flash as well?

With this in mind, the old adage of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, holds some traction. The issue for Adobe now will be how it manages its transition from Flash to HTML5.

It is worth noting that unlike many of the developer tools companies, Adobe’s core customer base is content creation professionals. For a user base that is not made up of hardcore programmers, the issue is less about whether content is available in Flash or HTML5, and more about if it can easily be delivered to a large user base using familiar content creation tools.

The move to support HTML5 certainly delivers on the former count: and if Adobe can deliver the tools that enable content creators to move seamlessly to HTML5 in the mobile domain as well as continuing support for Flash in the desktop browser, then it can maintain its position as the content tools partner of choice.

Of course, HTML5 is far from perfect, and some work still needs to be done before it can become the fully-fledged alternative to native apps it promises to be. But for cross platform content creation, the future path has just become a lot less complicated, which should benefit developers and consumers alike.

Steve Costello

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members


Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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