Adobe’s recent corporate announcements signify a major shift away from Flash to HTML5:
- Adobe halts further development on Flash mobile player and focuses heavily on HTML5
- Adobe donates Flex to the Open Source community to focus on HTML5 as the their enterprise application development framework
On the other hand, Adobe has announced a continued, if not increased, investment in advanced gaming and premium content functionality for Flash. Adobe has also signaled that they will continue to support Adobe AIR flash content publishing for mobile phones. Finally, we have the fact that Flash player has approximately 99% penetration on PCs
My sentiment is that the Flash party is almost over. It’s time to move on, folks. Here’s why:
Flash as an enterprise application platform is dead
The day Adobe announced that they were donating Flex to an Open Source community pretty much sealed the platform’s fate. The majority of profits are made in enterprise application development. If there’s no more money to be made developing enterprise applications in Flash, developers will just move on to a platform that WILL allow this. In all honesty, Flash enterprise application SDK was in trouble long before the announcement. In the past 2 years, HTML5 has proven itself to be a good platform for enterprise application development and the platform will continue to evolve and improve as more developers jump on to the bandwagon.
Flash mobile was a failure
It’s difficult to promote Flash as a software platform on mobile when there are severe performance issues. Flash performance just isn’t there. In all honesty, neither is HTML5′s performance – but it’s a lot closer. The fact is that Adobe’s Flash mobile development efforts just cannot compare to the HTML5 development juggernaut. We have mobile OS developers heavily invested in speeding up their web browser performance. Then we have tech companies developing HTML5 accelerators such as Phonegap, Appcelerator, and AppMobi. It’s no wonder that Flash performance in mobile is lagging behind HTML5 performance. For what it’s worth, I’m quite amazed at how much Adobe has accomplished with Flash on the mobile platform.
Lack of continuing corporate support
No developer wants to continue developing on a platform that is perceived as stagnant or, worse, deprecated. Like it or not, Adobe’s announcements create the perception that that is exactly what developers should expect in the near future. I fully expect Flash to go the way of Java applets despite Adobe’s continued investment into Flash’s advanced gaming and premium facilities . It may take longer owing to its current popularity, but I wholly expect its popularity to drop dramatically in this coming year
If Flash is dying, should developers immediately jump ship to a different platform?
I don’t think the choice is as clear cut.
A decision to switch platforms is an expensive one and it will have not affect consumer’s product perception… at least that will be true for the next year or two. At the end of the day, consumers only care about the application functionality and stability. For developers of performance intensive applications (i.e. games), the decision to go with a maturing platform is an even more difficult one. We’re currently looking HTML5 as a game software development platform and its present shortcomings is significant.
HTML5 performance in the consumer market just isn’t there. ArsTechnica’s October 2011 browser survey indicates that more than 50% of web users today are still using older browser versions which have serious HTML5 performance issues. Then, there’s the fact that the graphics standards hasn’t fully settled down; the competition between HTML5 canvas 2D and WebGL is eerily reminiscent of the standards wars in the 90′s between OpenGL, DirectDraw and Direct3D… right down to the issues with display driver compatibility. On the mobile front, it is possible to get good performance, but it would involve using one of the accelerator platform on the market – none of them being a clear market leader at this point. All these factors in combination may lead to consumer issues with application stability and performance. In addition, it elevates the risk of increased development costs.
For the record, I firmly believe that HTML5 is the frontrunner technology for games in the coming years – I’m just not sure it’s ready for the prime time today. For now, we’re suspending further game client development pending further software platform analysis.