Thoughts….er…Wild Unsubstantiated Predictions on Flash

Yes, Adobe did us, the developers wrong this week. No doubt about it. Even if they have the best possible intentions, they did an AWESOME job salting the developer community earth this week.

It got me thinking, assuming they did have the best possible intentions for Flash, what could that mean? What is going on behind the closed doors and tight lips?

OK, let’s revisit what they said:
Adobe is Stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile.

Read it again…it says Adobe is stopping development. They already have a partner developer program, which means that a company can come in, sign an NDA, and make their own Flash player.

They ALSO have the Open Screen Project. The project consists of a lot of companies all pledging to support the SWF format reliable on many screens.

My knee jerk reaction to this past week’s news is “Hoooooo boy…..HTC, Google, MTV, Disney, Cisco, Samsung, etc, etc, are all gonna be super pissed that Adobe is dropping Flash and essentially this project”.

What if this news revolves around the OpenScreen project? We’ve heard from some of the senior Flash engineers how much of a pain it is to maintain Flash on every device in every browser. There are way too many screens. The message we’re hearing from the Flash engineers is that they will still continue desktop development.

My thought process leads to Adobe’s PDF history here. Adobe created the spec, and owned Acrobat for many years. The spec was released in 2001 and was released as an open standard in 2008. This means that anyone can create tools that make or read PDFs. We have Foxit, Google Chrome Support, OSX support, the list goes on. Adobe still has Acrobat, and while you may think it’s bloated and you complain about it non-stop, its still a very popular method to read and write documents. We have other text document standards as well of course…like HTML!

Does this sound like another open specification we know? Yep the Flash SWF specification. The spec is open, but the player is not open source. Adobe has told us in the past that proprietary tech like the h264 video format prevents them from releasing the code in it’s entirety. However, we’re now at a cross-roads with Flash. Lots of stuff available on the desktop is not available on a device (3D) and vice versa (gestures, acceleromter, GPS, etc). Flash is no longer consistent everywhere.

This feels to me like a good opportunity for Adobe to maintain it’s vision for Flash on the desktop and say “Guys, if you are implementing Flash on your screen…this is what you should shoot for”. But vendors like Sony can also say, “Wellllll, the 3D stuff won’t work on my cheap TV, we’re just gonna take the other stuff”. It also feels like a good stopping point for them if they were to hand this off to the OpenScreen foundation. They have massive penetration on the desktop, and a decent inroads on mobile devices.

Where Adobe leaves off, Android/Google can pick up for their own OS – and do it BETTER than Adobe because they know their own devices better than Adobe ever could.

Adobe could certainly leave h264 video out of the open sourced player, and leave it up to vendors to pay the licensing fee and hook it into their version of Flash.

Also, go back a few months, we saw AIR 3 announced with native extensions, fast native performance. All of this is designed to make SWFs a powerful format. It also makes a path for vendors to hook into Flash in whatever way they want.

Anyway – I like working with Flash. Just like I like working with a lotta cool tech. This is just my optomistic vision of what is going on behind closed doors, and its probably not even true. Even if it was true, Adobe lost a lot of trust with developers. But I’m not here to whine, that’s what the rest of the internet is for!

But, I’ll leave you with this…if it was being turned over to the OpenScreen project and managed by many companies, how much work and wrangling would it take IN SECRET to make all of these companies happy before announcing intentions.

Buy into this or not, I don’t care! Just a wild theory.