Adobe’s recently released Flash roadmap formalizes the changes the company has been hinting were coming. The biggest takeaway is that Adobe is focusing on Web gaming and premium video for the Flash player going forward. It is also going to continue to develop AIR as a solution for deploying Flash-based applications as mobile apps, but development of that codebase is going to be secondary to gaming and video.
What does this mean for existing Flash applications? For the moment, nothing. Future releases of the Flash player are going to be backward compatible, so existing applications will continue to work as they are. However, future bug fixes and support for the Flash player are going to be heavily focused on gaming and video only, so applications that need to be maintained over time may run into problems as their codebase evolves.
In a new whitepaper, Adobe explicitly states that a major motivation for its shift in priority is the new reality that with modern web technologies, such as HTML5 and CSS3, browsers are now capable of replicating much of the functionality currently in the Flash player without using plugins. At EffectiveUI, we agree with this assessment that for many business applications the HTML stack will provide the best user experience going forward.
Right now we’re in an intermediate period – the Flash player is still relevant for enterprise applications as the HTML stack continues to mature. However, in the next couple years we should see a major shift in Web-based applications to using browser technologies rather than plugins.
Does this mean that the Flash player no longer has any business application? Not necessarily. As Adobe refines the gaming and video aspects of the Flash player, the technology will carve out a new niche for itself where it will be the best solution. It will be a complement to fill specific needs within larger applications. However, the days of full-blown Flash enterprise applications are drawing to a close. Future applications should be largely based in Web technologies using plugins like the Flash player to augment their capabilities as needed.
In addition to the announcements about the new emphasis on gaming and video for the Flash player, Adobe took a further step away from the Linux platform. The company has partnered with Google to develop a plugin API called PPIA, and going forward that structure is going to be the only way that Linux users will be able to get updates to the Flash player. This means that the only way Linux users will have access to Flash player versions after version 12 is if they use Google Chrome. This isn’t that surprising since Adobe has slowly been pulling its support from Linux over the past few years. It seems clear with this announcement that Adobe is trying to consolidate its development efforts to get the maximum return on investment for developer time by focusing on only big ticket features and the most heavily used platforms.
At EffectiveUI, our stance has always been that we want to use the best technology to solve the problem at hand. For a long time, Flash and Flex have been preferred solutions for Web applications. But we’ve already been training our developers in the HTML stack and will continue to do so.
We are also starting the conversation with clients about if and when it makes sense to switch from Flash to HTML. For clients with an existing Flex application, we’re continuing to work with them to maintain their application. Where possible, we’re helping clients transition their applications to HTML. And for new work, we continue to recommend the best technology for every project. Right now, that means recommending HTML more than ever before.