Adobe abandons Linux

Adobe has announced its future plans for Flash and AIR and Linux isn't part of them. Flash will still, however, be available to Linux desktop users who use Google's Chrome Web browser.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Get Adobe Flash Player... unless you're running Linux.

There was a time when I hoped that Adobe would port more of their applications to the Linux desktop. Those hopes have been dashed. Adobe has announced their roadmap for Adobe Flash and AIR and Linux is barely on it.

Adobe Flash Player 11.2 which is targeted for release in the first quarter of 2012 will be the last native version for Linux. This release include the following features:

  • Mouse-lock support
  • Right and middle mouse-click support
  • Context menu disabling
  • Support for more hardware accelerated video cards (from January 2008) in order to expand availability of hardware-accelerated content.
  • New Throttle event API (dispatches event when Flash Player throttles, pauses, or resumes content)
  • Multi-threaded video decoding pipeline on the desktop which improves overall performance of video on all desktop platforms

After that version comes out sometime soon that will be the end of the road for direct Linux Flash Player support. Thereafter, the Flash Player browser plug-in for Linux will only be available via a "Pepper" implementation of Flash Player for all x86/64 platforms supported by the Google Chrome browser. Google will begin distributing this new Pepper-based Flash Player as part of Chrome on all platforms, including Linux, later this year.

Pepper is the name for the Pepper Plug-in Application Programming Interface (PPAPI). PPAPI is a cross-platform API for plug-ins for Web browsers. Pepper is currently an experimental feature of Chromium and Google Chrome. According to Adobe, "For Flash Player releases after 11.2, the Flash Player browser plug-in for Linux will only be available via the 'Pepper' API as part of the Google Chrome browser distribution and will no longer be available as a direct download from Adobe."

This has been coming for a while Adobe abandoned Flash for 64-bit Linux back in 2010. Eventually, with the rise of HTML5 video, we won't need Flash support, but today many sites still offer video only in the Flash format.

Flash has become only too well known recently for security holes. Fortunately for Linux users, Adobe says it will continue to provide security updates to non-Pepper distributions of Flash Player 11.2 on Linux for five years from its release.

Adobe will also continue to support browsers using non-Pepper plug-in APIs for Flash on platforms other than Linux. This indicates that say Firefox users on Windows or Mac OS X who don't want to download the full Adobe Flash Player will still be able to use Flash within their browsers. Firefox Linux users, however, will not be able to use the up-to-date versions of Flash with Firefox, Opera, or other Web browsers.

Adobe, however, also states that it will be providing a debug player implementation of the Flash Player browser plug-in on Linux." Adobe isn't saying, yet, how this will be distributed.

As for Adobe AIR, it's now officially dead. This has also been coming for a while Adobe stopped releasing new versions of AIR on Linux back on June 14 2011. The sadly out of date Air 2.6 is still available for Linux, but "Adobe has discontinued support for Adobe AIR for Linux operating systems."

In a technical whitepaper, the company also states that "Adobe will not be contributing the AIR for Linux SDK, LCDS, or LCCS to Apache." So I wouldn't hold out any real hope for an open-sourced version of AIR. If you're fond of AIR-based applications like the twhirl social network client, it's long past time to look for alternatives. Eventually, they won't work on Linux's out of date AIR.

Adobe hasn't announced its Linux plans for Adobe Reader X, the latest version of the Acrobat PDF reader. However, Linux is not listed as an Acrobat X supported platform at this time. Adobe Reader 9.4.7 is the latest available version for Linux. That said, the Adobe PDF Library software development kit (SDK) X, which works with Acrobat X, does include support for 64-bit Linux. So, we may yet see Acrobat X for Linux.

What all this means for Linux desktop users is that unless you're using Chrome for your Web browser, you can pretty much forget about keeping up-to-date Adobe software. There are many open-source Flash projects and several players. The best of the Flash players, in my experience, is GNU Gnash. For PDFs, Chrome comes with a built-in PDF reader. For a standalone Linux reader for PDF, and many other document formats, I recommend KDE's Okular.

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