Adobe puts Flash out of our misery

Flash is dead. Well, maybe that wording is a bit strong, but Adobe's roadmap for the platform released on Wednesday officially codifies the company's plans to scale back development efforts as new web standards take Flash's place, like HTML5.

As announced last year, development on mobile is officially over, as is direct development for Linux flavors of the Flash player. Adobe will focus its efforts on two key areas where Flash has a significant presence: video and gaming. The effort is aimed at making the technology viable "for the next decade", the company says.

Gaming is an obvious choice for Flash. Since the platform's inception, Flash has seen heavy use in this market. Adobe says it plans to create a formal game development program as well as game services to support developers who use Flash to create their games.

"Adobe believes that the rapid innovation and consistent reach uniquely possible via Flash will continue to make it exceptionally well suited for gaming", it says.

Video is another area where Adobe (and Macromedia before it) found surprising success. Flash allows website developers to deliver video content across operating systems without the need for an external player. Here Adobe sees opportunities in "premium" video, as more entertainment providers take to the web.

Much of its future efforts will focus on bringing better content protection controls to Flash in order to make it a viable option for those wishing to bring premium content online. "Online video is still in its infancy and Adobe believes we will see more broadcast and premium content available online", it argues.

On the platform side, Adobe will officially only continue development on Mac and Windows platforms. Linux development is being left to Google, whose Pepper plug in API will now control Flash on the platform. The company plans to support its own in-house efforts for another five years.

Mobile is also scrapped, as previously announced. On the Mac and Windows side, the company plans to release Flash Player 11.2 in the next month or so, with mouse compatibility and video playback enhancements. Players codenamed "Cyril" and "Dolores" will debut in the second quarter and then the second half of the year, bringing enhancements necessary to support Adobe's plans to refocus on gaming.

With all this, we return to the first sentence of the story. Is Flash really dead? No. Is it weakened? Yes, but only due to the path the market is already taking. Technologies like HTML5 are doing the things that once only Flash could provide. It can be argued that this refocusing was something that Adobe should have done a long time ago.

Did Apple win? If you're looking at it from a HTML5 vs. Flash perspective, then yes. But there are still things that HTML5 cannot do, such as protected content. This is why Adobe has made the conscious decision to stick it out in web video. There is still a niche for them here, and Flash can fill that hole nicely.

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