Flash is on Windows 8, but that's just part of the story

Yes, it's true, even the Windows 8 Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 will run Flash -- but plenty of shoes have yet to drop

The Windows 8 watch cabal was aghast late last week when the Winunleaked.tk site posted screenshots of Adobe Flash running in Internet Explorer 10 on the "no add-ins" Metro side of Windows 8. The sighting was confirmed by Paul Thurrott on his WinSupersite with screenshots of the "immersive" IE10 running a Flash animation.

Apparently Microsoft has negotiated with Adobe for the rights to embed the Flash player in Internet Explorer 10. That isn't a particularly big deal -- Google's been doing something similar with Chrome for years; in fact, Windows 98 shipped with Flash pre-installed. But it came as a shock to those of us who assumed that "no add-ins in Metro" was equivalent to saying "no Internet Explorer Flash in Metro."

Wrong.

Last September, the Building Windows 8 blog was pointing in that direction: "Metro style browsing and plug-in free HTML5 ... the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible.... Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI. Plug-in-free browsers today already deliver great experiences with well-authored HTML5 content. These experiences get even better with touch in Metro style IE."

No, Steve Sinofsky didn't actually come out and say that Windows 8 won't have Flash. But he was hinting at it broadly. Perhaps he used this blog post as a bargaining chip with Adobe.

Back in March, I speculated that Google would be able to bring Flash to Metro using its built-in Flash technology and HTML5 communication between the Metro and Legacy Desktop sides of Windows 8. But it never occured to me that Microsoft would rip a page from Chrome's book and stick Flash in Internet Explorer 10.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft can build a secure sandbox around Flash. Don't forget that the built-in Chrome Flash player was used to hack Chrome at the Pwn2Own contest in March.

Winunleaked.tk had several additional revelations. If you try to install the Adobe Flash Player in Windows 8 Release Preview (due any day), it dies with an "ActiveX control for Flash Player could not be registered" message. The same installation works fine in the Consumer Preview. It isn't clear if that means Flash comes pre-installed on the Legacy Desktop version of IE 10, but based on the screenshots from both Winunleaked and Paul Thurrott, there's no question Flash will be pre-installed on Metro IE 10.

According to Thurrott, Microsoft has modified its Internet Explorer Compatibility View list to allow certain sites to use Metro IE 10 Flash. In essence, there's a Microsoft-maintained whitelist of websites that are allowed to run Flash on IE 10; presumably, sites not on the list are shut out. As it stands, the list names just 347 sites.

Here are some of the things we don't know:

  • Is the whitelist just for Metro IE 10? In other words, if a site not on the whitelist wants to use Flash, will the user be able to easily flip over to the Legacy Desktop version of IE 10 and view the site?
  • Will Microsoft or Adobe update the Legacy Desktop version of Flash?
  • Does this mean Google can use the same approach to give us Flash in the Metro Chrome app? If so, where does that leave Firefox?

The rules just changed again. Stay tuned.

This story, "Flash is on Windows 8, but that's just part of the story," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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