Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

Summary: Microsoft and Apple don't often agree. That's why Microsoft's support of H.264 in HTML5 means it is all over for Adobe's Flash. Adobe should cut its losses starting now.


Microsoft and Apple don't often agree. That's why Microsoft's support for H.264 in HTML5 means it is all over for Adobe's Flash.

Apple’s antipathy for Adobe’s buggy Flash technology is well known. In case anyone hadn’t got the memo, Steve Jobs posted a concise review of why Apple is happy to see Flash die.

But when Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s GM of Internet Explorer weighs in with Microsoft’s commitment to HTML5, make no mistake: Flash’s days as a movie player are numbered.

Apple's ban on cross-compilers is another issue. There, Adobe has more options. But the "Flash runs on 98% of all computers" days are rapidly drawing to a close.

Is Apple making a good business decision banning cross-compilers on the iPhone OS? As a user the answer is yes. I want high-performance, tightly-integrated and well-supported apps on the iPhone OS. Flash, the consumer face of Adobe's products, hasn't demonstrated they can deliver that.

And they're paying a price for that.

Evaporating your market lead It is always educational when a market leading product craters: mainframes in the 1980s; Novell in the 1990s; IE and DLT in 2000s; and now Flash. A formerly unassailable “must-have” product loses its mojo and users jump ship.

Each has some key similarities:

  • Complacent management. When you’re on top, it is hard to believe that a distant cloud may herald a crippling hurricane. “Look how popular we are!” say the execs. But market share doesn’t equal popularity. Only when customers have an option will you find out how popular you truly are.
  • Technical stagnation. Microsoft waited 5 years to replace IE 6, whose many security holes angered users. As a result, FireFox gained a foothold that drove Microsoft’s browser share from 90%+ to the 60s. Now IE is supporting standards, not setting them. Which is good for the web and for Microsoft.
  • Customer anger. When customers feel locked-in, anger over little problems accumulates. And when there are big problems - such as IBM’s 80s mainframe prices or Flash’s poor Mac performance - customers start encouraging your competition even if they lack important functionality.

Adobe fits the pattern.

Microsoft is over Flash Dean’s post says:

The future of the web is HTML5. Microsoft is deeply engaged in the HTML5 process with the W3C. . . . The HTML5 specification describes video support without specifying a particular video format. We think H.264 is an excellent format. In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video only.

[bolding added]

Note what this doesn’t say: MS isn’t abandoning Flash, they are embracing H.264, and they won’t be supporting Adobe’s possible Flash-in-HTML5 strategy.

Translation: Flash has no future in HTML5. Google’s VP8 may be a different story.

The Storage Bits take The cost of storage and bandwidth make compression essential. Flash got there early and garnered impressive market share, but they’ve squandered their lead.

Ignoring the Mac probably seemed safe enough 4 years ago. But the Mac’s buggy Flash player has been a pain for Mac users for years.

If you are a Mac user, try ClickToFlash and see for yourself how much better off your Mac is without Flash. There’s Flashblock for Firefox users, too.

If Adobe hopes the US Justice Department’s inquiry into possible Apple anti-trust violations will help them, they can forget it. Competition in the smart phone segment is robust. If Apple chooses to not support something that other vendors are supporting that’s tough competition, not unlawful restraint of trade.

Adobe’s bigger problem is the Microsoft statement. Microsoft’s unequaled developer ecosystem knows how to take direction from Redmond - and the direction is clear.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen should cut his losses on Flash by seeing how he can partner with Google for VP8, the modern codec Google may open source. Yes, it is a step down from Flash’s former dominance, but half a loaf is better than none.

Comments welcome, of course. I updated the post to emphasize that I was talking about Flash-the-player rather than the the cross-platform development tool.

Topics: Apple, Browser, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Re: Adobe Flash

    Robin, are we not confusing "Flash, the movie player" with "Flash, the application platform"?

    Don't get me wrong - I'm not a huge Flash fan, but Flash is much more than just a movie player. Flash is quite capable of using whatever codecs that everyone decides on. So this endorsement of H.264 and HTML5 really means that people who just want to play movies no longer need to involve Flash. This is a nice thing, but doesn't really affect Flash much.

    What Apple hates (and MS has no opinion on) is the cross-platform application generation. I think their concern is that a cross-platform tool would produce substandard applications. Although I'm actually okay with Apple's control-freakishness, in this case I think they've gone too far. They already have controls in place for applications submitted to the AppStore. So let people use whatever tools you want! The market will decide.
    • I'm asking the same question

      Apparently some of the so called professionals that write blogs for ZDNet don't have a clue about what Flash is.

      HINT: Flash is not a video format. So please stop spreading incorrect information.

      You are supposed to be an "expert", but your lack if understanding of simple facts is displaying a level of professional incompetency that is not very flattering.
      • RE: Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

        @wackoae Don't be a troll. Flash certainly CAN be used for programming, but it is ALSO a wrapper for various video formats, including h.264. Or are you unaware of this somehow? Perhaps you are not an "expert" in this subject?

        The fact that many current videos are actually h.264 makes getting rid of Flash for video playback easier than it might otherwise be. Ignoring the DRM issues, the standards wars over HTML5 support, etc.

        As for Flash the non-video platform, I'd say HTML5 will eventually kill that off. Already the fact that no Apple mobile products and virtually no non-Apple mobile products can use Flash pages is driving many companies away from using Flash for their content on the web. This trend will only accelerate as the adoption of HTML5 continues.
  • I don't see it....

    How does a video compression codec mean the end to Flash, or Silverlight for that matter, when displaying video is only one small part of what Flash/Silverlight is capable of doing?

    I agree with you that H.264 is the future of presenting video on web sites (such as YouTube) where there is no interactivity required with the user. However, as Ed Bott explains in his much better article (;col1) there are many other examples, one being the recent Winter Olympics, where one would want to present videos with a much more rich interactive experience, which is not possible with H.264
    • Re: I don't see it

      Don't confuse H.264 (a "codec") with the method of bringing that encoded video to your screen. HTML5 is probably capable of replacing what Flash does in that regard.
      • RE: Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

        @rossdav@... Agreed. Seems to me the biggest issue with HTML5 in the short run is DRM. Sure Youtube can embrace h.264, but what about Hulu/CBS/Comedy Central et al? Without some ability to wrap their content in DRM, many media companies won't put their stuff on the web, simple as that.
  • RE: Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

    I'd say this is a significantly mis-written article.
    By your logic Java and other cross-platform technologies
    would be subject to dismissal as well just because HTML 5
    is coming along with the ABILITY to natively support
    VARIOUS codecs...

    One thing I've not heard any web journalist remark on is the
    fact that Adobe secured licensing with cable box
    manufacturers last year. This could hint at a potential All-
    Flash or partial Flash implementation directly on the TV for
    internet access. These technologies don't typically change
    up on a whim, you might tone down the Flash is done-for
    rhetoric until you have done more research....

    Also, given the fact that my typically non-gamer wife is
    TOTALLY and admittedly addicted to practically every Flash
    game available on Facebook (who passed up Google Search
    in traffic last month,) you REALLY might want to do better
    homework than a single conversation with Microsoft....
    • RE: Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

      @strobe33333 Have you heard of the Tivo Premiere? Tivo rewrote the whole UI in Flash and its a DOG. Horrible failure. And this thing has a much faster CPU than your typical cable STB. There is no way you're going to see Flash-applications deploy on STBs in any significant way, period.
  • Accelerated HTML5 support

    Adobe should just accelerate the support for HTML5 in their web authoring tools.

    Check out this DreamWeaver HTML5 demo:

    By doing so:
    - Adobe will sell more software/upgrades.
    - Adobe's customers will have more choices, for their website design (i.e. Flash, HTML5 or both).
    - non-Flash devices will be able to access more content.

    • No adobe makes their money from proprietary video server sw

      flash video means proprietary video server software sales for adobe at extremely high prices. H.264/HTML5 means no more adobe server sw. a win for sites hosting video content, a loss for adobe.

      on the flash as (web) app dev platform they're really starting to lose ground to Silverlight.

      on the mobile front it's no better. they've lost there too. iphone is all 80's style objective-c and wp7 is all SL.

      it's LOSE-LOSE-LOSE
      Johnny Vegas
      • There is no such thing as Flash video

        Are people really this ignorant ???

        Flash is only used as a player after somebody wrote a compatible codec for a particular video format. It is like playing a movie on MS Media Player, VLC or Quicktime. Neither are video formats, just players.

        When are people going to stop spreading misinformation??
        • Yes essentially there is. video in flash is wrapped in RTMPxx protocol

          video servers must used it to serve video to flash. adobe has been ripping everyone off by ridiculously over pring this server software which also perfroms so crappy that you need farms 4-10 times as big as you do for the same number of users using other video technologies like SL. go price adobe servers per user vs the IIS media extentions for smooth streaming...
          Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

        @Johnny Vegas Yup. As company's make the big move to adaptive streaming, they are taking another look at the alternatives as well. As you say, Adobe's closed architecture and expense on the server side isn't winning it any friends. This is driving a lot of people to one of the alternatives--SmoothHD from Microsoft (Silverlight, as seen on Netflix these days), or Apple's new Streaming Quicktime, or ...

        I don't see Adobe surviving this transition either.
  • RE: Adobe Flash: All over but the shouting

    Um If you read the entire post from Microsoft you would see this as well!

    Hachamovitch said Monday that Microsoft's IE9 will "of course ? continue to support Flash and other plug-ins."

    "We're committed to plug-in support because developer choice and opportunity in authoring web pages are very important," he wrote.

    For those looking for more than just H.264, Hachamovitch said that "users can install other codecs for use in Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center. For Web browsers, developers can continue to offer plug-ins (using NPAPI or ActiveX; they are effectively equivalent in this scenario) so that Web pages can play video using these codecs on Windows."

    Read your full source before you write your article.

    - Mike Kerr
    • Microsoft, Google being diplomatic

      Of course you realize that Microsoft and Google are just being
      diplomatic. Moreover, Its Apple's prerogative as to whether they want
      Mobile Safari to support plug-ins. Also it Apple's prerogative to choose
      which apps should go in their App Store.
      Gerald Shields
  • Flash always the ONE PROBLEM thing on my computer

    I will dance on the grave of Flash. Now, I don't
    really agree with Apple's just leaving it off of their
    devices (it's an unfortunate necessity at the moment.)
    However, I'm quite sick of it. On Linux it's
    completely at the mercy of Adobe and they do a
    horrendous job with it. The 64 bit Flash plugin has
    been in alpha for about two years. TWO YEARS for a
    crummy freakin browser plugin. The 32 bit version
    still has no h254 acceleration. Across all platforms,
    ver 10.1 has been in beta for nearly as long. Plus, it
    being completely closed source means that of course no
    one else can work on it; either Adobe fixes or it
    stays broken. So . . . it stays broken. Screw them and
    the horse they rode in on. The death of Flash will be
    so very richly deserved.
  • Worship at the altar of Jobs

    That must be the only explanation for accepting his rubbish about Flash.

    Flash is not just video...

    SO according to you we swap buggy Flash for buggy HTML 5 implementations just to please a small part of the market.
    • RTFA

      Then you'd find out that central to his blog was that it's not so much Apple/Jobs but rather Microsoft that will likely be the death of flash.
    • Yeah

      Jobs is a dummy. Steve Ballmer has done a much
      better job at MS than Jobs ever will with Apple.
    • First Microsoft --> Now Apple

      Does anyone remember when Jobs talked about the evil of Microsoft and how they dominated the market? Now with some good wins...

      Looks like old Stevie Boy wants to take Billy's place as the God of all things "Electronic".

      A "Closed" market is bad for computing if the company is Microsoft, Apple, or Google... stop dictating from on high what we should use on our mobile devices....