Adobe's Reversal on Mobile Flash Support Aligns Industry on HTML5

HTML5 as a strategic platform for mobile content arguably hit critical mass some time ago, but Adobe's recent reversal announcement on supporting Flash for mobile devices in favor of HTML5 should put the nail in the coffin for the remaining nay-sayers. It looks like RIM may be the one holdout, announcing today that the RIM Playbook will continue to support Flash.


How quickly "standards" can change in the technology industry. Before the mobile revolution, most estimates showed over 95% of browsers had a Flash plug-in. It was a reasonable assumption for web developers to expect it to be there. Many expected that trend to continue into the mobile world, but it sure has not panned out that way. What were the major events along the "life of mobile Flash"?


The first major shot across the bow of Flash for mobile came from Apple not supporting Flash on the iPhone or iPad. That was a "silent statement of sorts", but the full frontal assault came in April of 2010 when Steve Jobs posted "Thoughts on Flash" that said Flash was "no longer necessary" for video and rich content and that open standards such as HTML5 "will win." HTML5 had already been gaining some momentum prior to that, but that event significantly raised the general awareness of it across the industry, and definitely generated a lot of debate. Fast forward a year or so and Microsoft announced in September of 2011 that IE 10 Metro will not support any plug-ins, period. Not just Flash, that means Silverlight as well. Both gone in favor of HTML5. If "Thoughts on Flash" started the debate, I think this announcement from Microsoft ended it. It's one thing to exclude the significant "Apple" browsing segment, but Apple and Microsoft combined? I think that is what convinced Adobe to get on the HTML5 bandwagon.


At the Web 2.0 Expo in New York last month, the two major repeating themes seemed to me to be social media and HTML5. Social media of course was no surprise, but the amount of interest and activity behind HTML5 I found a little higher than I had expected. Of particular interest to me was the trend towards a hybrid approach of building most of a mobile app in HTML5 and then "wrapping" it in native code for any areas HTML5 fell short, and also to package it as a native app for distribution across iOS and Android platforms. The HTML5 apps demonstrated were indistinguishable from native apps in many instances, and in fact one HTML5 app used the iPhone look-and-feel so completely that some Android users were complaining that it made their Android device "look too much like an iPhone". Obviously the app is in control of look and feel in HTML5, and should be platform aware, but overall this approach seemed to be a viable deployment option, and a trend I would expect to see more of as HTML5 adoption accelerates.


So as an industry we seemed to have fully rallied around HTML5 as one of our next strategic technologies, and are pooling our collective resources in that direction. We at Quest are excited by this consensus, as we made that same choice for our own development priorities some time ago. HTML5 not only provides for rich content, it also provides for richer data associated with the performance of that content in the browser. We think this richer data set will play a significant role in the practical deployment and adoption of HTML5 applications, and one that likely will bring along its own set of application management challenges for IT, which we are looking forward to helping our clients address as they build and monitor next generation HTML5 applications.