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Adobe ending mobile Flash Player, cutting 750 jobs

November 9, 2011 |  8:04 am

Adobe Flash Player in the Android Market

Your smartphone's and tablet's web browser will likely be Flash-free in the future, if it isn't already.

Adobe Systems Inc. said Wednesday that it is ending its development of the Flash Player plug-in for mobile devices and will instead shift its resources and third-party partners to its Adobe AIR software and HTML5 technologies for interactive websites, apps and video playback.

Word of the shift away from Flash on mobile devices was first reported by the website ZDNet and later confirmed in a company blog post by Danny Winokur, Adobe's vice president of interactive development.

"Over the past two years, we've delivered Flash Player for mobile browsers and brought the full expressiveness of the web to many mobile devices," Winokur said. "However, HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.

"We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."

Adobe will shift its resources toward giving Flash developers the tools to turn their Flash files into native apps for mobile operating systems with Adobe AIR.

"We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook," Winokur said. "We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations."

The changes will allow the San Jose-based company to increase its investment in HTML5 "and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry," he said.

The news of the Flash strategy change followed a Tuesday announcement in which Adobe said that it will cut 750 jobs as part of a company restructuring.

"In order to better align resources around Digital Media and Digital Marketing, Adobe is restructuring its business," the company said in a statement. "This will result in the elimination of approximately 750 full-time positions primarily in North America and Europe."

The layoffs and other changes, such as "the consolidation of leased facilities" and severance payouts, will cost Adobe somewhere between $87 million and $94 million in pretax restructuring charges, the statement said.

"We expect to record approximately $73 million to $78 million of these charges in the fiscal quarter ending Dec. 2, 2011," Adobe said, also adding that it has dropped its expected earnings per share down to a range of 30 cents to 38 cents in the quarter from a previous projection of 41 cents to 50 cents.

Despite all the changes, Adobe said it is forecasting that its revenue will be unaffected and come in between $1.08 billion to $1.13 billion.

Adobe's move to discontinue Flash for mobile web browsers will (and has already) be seen as proof that late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs' stance that Flash doesn't belong on phones and tablets has won out.

Adobe and Apple have at time been business partners, but with the release of Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all without any Flash capabilities, the two companies were also in a public disagreement over Flash's role in an increasingly mobile computing future.

Jobs famously penned a blunt letter posted on Apple's website called "Thoughts on Flash" in April 2010, criticizing Flash and Adobe's dedication to dump the technology.

The Apple co-founder wrote that "Flash was created during the PC era -- for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards -- all areas where Flash falls short."

Adobe has since introduced products that allow developers to take what they've created in Flash and convert those files into i-device-compatible formats, such as Adobe Edge and Adobe Wallaby, which can be used to convert files into HTML5.

Apple isn't the only company that has made moves that stem the adoption of Flash on the Web. Microsoft said in a developer blog post from September that its Internet Explorer 10 browser in WIndows 8, launching next year on tablets and PCs, will support Web plug-ins on PCs, but not tablets.

While Microsoft didn't call out Flash by name the way that Jobs did more than a year earlier, the message was clear -- Microsoft, too, believes that Flash and other plug-ins were on their way out.

"For the Web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free," Microsoft said in the post. "The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web."

[Updated 10:27 A.M.: Cynthia Fetty, a spokeswoman for Adobe and working for the Edelman PR agency, said in an email that Adobe isn't ending all Flash mobile development, as indicated by an earlier headline on this post that read "Adobe ending mobile Flash development, cutting 750 jobs."

Rather, Fetty clarified, Adobe is ending development of the Flash Player plug-ins for mobile browsers.

"Adobe will only discontinue the development of Flash for mobile browsers," she said. "Future work around Flash for mobile devices will focus on enabling developers to deliver apps via AIR and innovating with Flash where it can have the most impact including 3D gaming and premium video."]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Adobe Flash Player in the Android Market. Credit: Google

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