Adobe Flash and Connected Devices: Change for the Better
In the last couple of days, it feels like Adobe Flash has been infected with the Black Death. First, came the announcement that Flash would not be supported on mobile devices and in turn the press declared that Flash was dead. Yesterday, GigaOM reported that Adobe stated that the Flash browser plug-in was also dead on connected devices such as TVs and Blu-ray players.
Adobe released a statement today to in an attempt to calm the media storm
. In particular, Adobe clarified that Flash was only going away as a browser plug-in for both mobile and connected devices. Adobe emphasized their commitment to Flash as a desktop browser-plug-in. In the world of mobile and connected devices, Adobe sees a future of native apps and sites built in HTML5. In particular, they emphasized how Adobe streaming video is here to stay as is their commitment to tools such as Adobe AIR to build apps.
Adobe is basically saying that regular HTML web sites with embedded Flash that people have been building for years are dead on mobile devices and in the living room. Good! From the perspective of streaming video, this type of solution has always been problematic. Exhibit A are the early versions of HBO Go and other channels that were deployed on the Google TV, Boxee and HDTVs with flash-enabled web-browsers. These were not apps in the true sense of the word, but simply Flash-based web sites on your TV. The problem is that the web-based version of HBO Go and sites like it assume there’s a keyboard and mouse for navigation. Connected devices for the living room usually don’t have a keyboard and don’t have good way to move the pointer, so usability was always awkward at best.
And what does the announcement mean for TiVo? The Premiere platform has an HD user interface that is built in Flash (albeit not complete yet). However, it’s not what Adobe is removing support for. TiVo PR provided the following comment when asked about the impact of the Adobe announcement:
“Adobe’s recent announcement is focused on Flash as a browser plug-in for mobile devices. TiVo Premiere utilizes Adobe AIR to deliver Flash based apps to connected TVs and is not affected by the news. After consulting with Adobe, we anticipate no change to our current plans in our use of Adobe products within TiVo products. [TiVo also then references the Adobe clarification]“
This statement gives credence to our theory that the new TiVo Netflix app will be Flash-based. So, TiVo fans don’t fret. The Adobe announcement does not mean that TiVo (or Google TV) has hit an architectural dead-end. In fact, it sounds like Adobe is doubling down on AIR (as is TiVo).
Update: Mike Chambers, one of the product managers for Flash at Adobe, posted a detailed explanation of Adobe’s thinking behind the move.