Thursday, August 16, 2012

Anger as Adobe kills off Flash on Android

As from tomorrow Adobe's Flash Player plug-in will no longer be available from Android's Google Play store, a signal that the end is nigh for the application widely used to display graphics, animation and video.

Updates & compatibility

Users who have already installed the software on their mobile devices will continue getting security updates and bug fixes until 2013. The company is no longer actively developing the player for Android, Blackberry or Symbian devices. Since Adobe Flash Player was never released for Apple iOS or Windows Phone handsets, the decision will effectively mean only PCs will use the player which is gradually becoming redundant in favour of the HTML5 standard.

Adobe say it was removing the option to install the plug-in from Google Play because it was likely to exhibit "unpredictable behaviour" when used with the latest version of Android, known as Jelly Bean.

"Beginning August 15th we will use the configuration settings in the Google Play Store to limit continued access to Flash Player updates to only those devices that have Flash Player already installed," Adobe says in a blog post.

"Devices that do not have Flash Player already installed are increasingly likely to be incompatible with Flash Player and will no longer be able to install it from the Google Play Store after August 15th."

Criticism of Flash

The abandonment of Flash for mobile follows conflict between Adobe and Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs, who was famously dismissive of the plug-in and refused to allow the technology on the iOS platform. Instead, Jobs fought for the alternative HTML5 standard, which is beginning to replace Flash around the web.

In 2007, Adobe said that, with Flash it had "passed a major milestone in bringing a desktop experience to mobile and transforming the wireless industry," and once claimed that Flash would enable "the full web experience" on mobile devices.

But, in 2010, Jobs wrote a public letter outlining his thoughts on Flash and its problems with "reliability, security, and performance".

In late 2011, Adobe announced that it would stop developing Flash Player for new mobile device configurations, and said that HTML5 was the "best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms," signalling the demise of Flash for mobile. "We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."

In June this year 2012, Adobe released a statement saying, "We have not continued developing and testing Flash Player for this new version of Android and its available browser options. There will be no certified implementations of Flash Player for Android 4.1."

Forcing change

While there are still websites that require Flash to display content properly, the increasing number of devices not having Flash installed will likely force companies and webmaster to change.

CNN, BBC, Sky News and many other broadcaster still show webcasts using Flash and will need to adopt new methods to stream video content.

The BBC has said it is working on new versions of its Android apps, including its popular iPlayer app, after Adobe announced it was to pull its Flash player from the Google Play store.

"The BBC is working with Adobe on an alternative video player for Android, ensuring audiences with Android devices continue to enjoy BBC iPlayer," said Daniel Danker, general manager of On-Demand at the BBC. "We do have concerns about fragmentation of Android devices and new updates to the Android platform, which have created an inconsistent video playback experience for our audience, and we are working with Google to find ways to address this."

Angry Android users

While the writing has been on the wall for some time, the final nails in the Flash coffin have angered many Android users.

"We all understand the world is transitioning to HTML 5 but cutting Flash support this early is commercial suicide," one user commented on the Google Play store. Another posted, "Flash was the reason I bought a Galaxy Tab instead of iPad! I can't believe Adobe and Google would do this."

Another user also commented on the untimely exit. "This is the single biggest difference between the Android and iOS web experience. Seemingly half the web is still based on Flash, and my device is now powerless to view any of that content."

Several complained that their devices had become all but useless. "My motorola RAZR went from being the best phone to the worst phone since updating to the ICS system. Can no longer watch videos using flash player. Wish I had known this before installing update. Angry!!!"

Several users complain that flash won't display on ICS Android 4.0.x, however this seems to be only a partial problem. Chrome for Android does not support Flash, though native web browsers should display Flash content correctly. Users might also try using the Dolphin browser, available from the Google Play store, which has Flash built in. The other alternative is to wait for websites to upgrade to HTML 5...

[BBC / Guardian / IBT]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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