Some have been surprised at the lack of inclusion of Flash Player on a recent magical device.
Ironically, Flash was originally designed for pen computing tablets, about 15 years before that market was ready to take off. Flash exists now only due to its finding an alternate route in its use — first filling a niche on the Web by enabling low-bandwidth vector graphics in the early days and then rapidly adding new capabilities over the past decade. That includes bringing animation, streaming audio, rich interactivity, arbitrary fonts, two-way audio/video communication, local storage, and enabling the video revolution on the Web.
By augmenting the capabilities of HTML, Flash has been incredibly successful in its adoption, with over 85% of the top web sites containing Flash content and Flash running on over 98% of computers on the Web. It is used for the majority of casual games, video, and animation on the Web and familiar brands like Nike, Hulu, BBC, Major League Baseball, and more rely on Flash to deliver the most compelling experiences to over a billion people.
Now we are at an important crux for the future of Flash. A wide variety of devices beyond personal computers are arriving, many of which will be used to browse the Web, making it increasingly challenging to deliver what creators and users of content and applications have come to expect of Flash on personal computers — seamless, consistent and rich experiences. The Flash engineering team has taken this on with a major overhaul of the mainstream Flash Player for a variety of devices.
We are now on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. This includes Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and many others across form factors including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and internet-connected TVs. Flash in the browser provides a competitive advantage to these devices because it will enable their customers to browse the whole Web. This is being accomplished via the Open Screen Project, where we are working with over 50 partners to make this a reality across a wide array of devices. For example, the recent Nexus One from Google will rock with a great experience in the browser with Flash Player 10.1.
So, what about Flash running on Apple devices? We have shown that Flash technology is starting to work on these devices today by enabling standalone applications for the iPhone to be built on Flash. In fact, some of these apps are already available in the Apple App Store such as FickleBlox and Chroma Circuit. This same solution will work on the iPad as well. We are ready to enable Flash in the browser on these devices if and when Apple chooses to allow that for its users, but to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen.
Longer term, some point to HTML as eventually supplanting the need for Flash, particularly with the more recent developments coming in HTML with version 5. I don’t see this as one replacing the other, certainly not today nor even in the foreseeable future.
Adobe supports HTML and its evolution and we look forward to adding more capabilities to our software around HTML as it evolves. If HTML could reliably do everything Flash does that would certainly save us a lot of effort, but that does not appear to be coming to pass. Even in the case of video, where Flash is enabling over 75% of video on the Web today, the coming HTML video implementations cannot agree on a common format across browsers, so users and content creators would be thrown back to the dark ages of video on the Web with incompatibility issues.
The productivity and expressiveness of Flash remain advantages for the Web community even as HTML advances. The Flash team will drive innovation over the coming years as they have over the past decade to enable experiences that aren’t otherwise possible. With the ability to update the majority of Web clients in less than a year, Flash can make this innovation available to our customers much more quickly than HTML across a variety of browsers.
Our mission at Adobe is to revolutionize how people engage with ideas and information, and we focus daily on how to best empower designers and developers to express themselves most fully and creatively. To have the greatest creative control combined with the most productive tools and broadest ability to deploy their content and applications. We support whatever technologies and formats that best enable our customers to accomplish these goals, and work to drive technology forward where there are gaps that we can fill. The blend of Flash and HTML are best together, enabling anyone to make pragmatic decisions to use these for their strengths to make the best experiences on the Web.
Engaging with ideas and information also means ensuring there is an open ecosystem and freedom to view and interact with the content and applications a user chooses. This model of open access has proven to be more effective in the long term than a walled approach, where a manufacturer tries to determine what users are able to see or approves and disapproves individual content and applications. We strongly believe the Web should remain an open environment with consistent access to content and applications regardless of your viewing device.
We are continuing to focus on enabling our customers to do their best work, and helping them reach people effectively and reliably around the world across operating systems, browsers, and a variety of devices.
Update: I’ve responded as well in the comments below.
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