Adobe has moved forward with its Flash-based strategy, announcing today Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 for creating "immersive" application experiences across devices and platforms. The announcement comes on the heels of ongoing setbacks at the hands of standards-based HTML5 technologies, which do not require proprietary plug-ins like Flash to enable the kinds of multimedia capabilities favored on today's mobile and desktop Web.
Slated to ship to desktop systems in early October, Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 will feature hardware-accelerated rendering that will render 2D and 3D graphics "1,000 times faster" than with Flash Player 10 and AIR 2, according to the company. But Adobe's real challenge may be to keep Flash relevant in a quickly transforming technology landscape.
Flash Player has already been banned from Apple's increasingly popular iOS devices, in favor of HTML5. It's also not available on Windows Phones and on BlackBerry smartphones, although Research in Motion has promised it for some time. And now that Microsoft has revealed that its tablet-oriented, Metro-style version of Internet Explorer 10 will not offer any plug-in support, HTML5 will be the platform of choice on Windows 8-based mobile devices as well. The desktop version of IE10 will continue to support plug-ins.
"Running Metro-style IE plug-in-free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers," said Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Internet Explorer, in a blog post. "Plug-ins were important early on in the Web's history. But the Web has come a long way since then with HTML5."
It's notable that Microsoft's own Silverlight plug-in, long a competitor to Flash, will also suffer at the hands of the change in IE policy.
Adobe, however, believes Flash will remain vital on Windows desktops. "We expect Windows desktop to be extremely popular for years to come (including Windows 8 desktop) and that it will support Flash just fine, including rich Web-based games and premium videos that require Flash. In addition, we expect Flash-based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the way they are on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry Tablet OS today," wrote Danny Winokur, general manager for platforms at Adobe, in a blog post.
Winokur's blog post also stressed Adobe's own support of HTML5.
The future of Flash
Flash's long-term prospects will no doubt be tied to usage. Even then, some Web-based organizations are already shifting away from Flash, in favor of HTML5.