Dramatic Changes at Adobe Announced

Financial restructuring, Flash for mobile phase-out, job cuts ahead.

Adobe this week announced several important changes. In addition to a financial restructuring, the company said it will implement a 750-worker jobs cut and discontinue its browser-based Flash Player for mobile devices.

Adobe is turning its efforts from Flash for mobile devices into use of HTML 5. The abandonment of mobile Flash may reflect a curse from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who essentially banished at one point from the Apple platform. Jobs had harsh words about Adobe's Web graphics and animation platform, but the shift to HTML 5 has had broad industry support, which Adobe's vice president and general manager of interactive development Danny Winokur acknowledged.

"HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively," Winokur wrote in a blog post today.

Adobe didn't kill Flash, which now seems relegated to specialized applications, such as "advanced gaming" and "premium video," according to Winokur's description. Adobe Flash Player 12 is currently under development, but Adobe's efforts in creating Flash Players for mobile browsers will be redirected toward supporting HTML 5 innovation instead, Winokur explained. He said that Adobe will continue its work with Apple, Google Microsoft and RIM "to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."

HTML 5 promises to enable two-dimensional graphics and video within browsers through standard HTML 5's markup language. Use of browser plug-ins -- such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight -- for multimedia applications may not be required.

Flash developers writing for mobile devices will be able to "package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores," according to Winokur. However, Adobe will not continue to develop new Flash solutions for mobile device hardware after it releases "Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook."

Reaction to Adobe's Flash phase-out for mobile browsers was generally negative in the comments section of Winokur's blog post. Some commenters accused Adobe of caving to Apple. Others were confused about when to use Flash over HTML 5 in applications. In that respect, Adobe seems no different than Microsoft, which rolled out a new Windows Runtime and Windows 8 Metro-style app development model keying off XAML and HTML 5, with little-to-no mention about the fate of its own Silverlight graphics platform. One explanation on the Microsoft side is that Silverlight developer skills will transfer over to using XAML without much effort.

Adobe, known for its Creative Suite graphics design tools and Dreamweaver developer and site management tools, plans to restructure its operations more in the direction of providing infrastructure support for digital publishers. Two business segments will be key elements in this restructuring effort, namely Adobe's Digital Media and Digital Marketing operations. The job cuts will be made primarily in North America and Europe; they are part of the restructuring effort, according to Adobe.

According to Adobe's published descriptions, its Digital Media business will be an attempt to sell the use of graphics- and Web-enabling technologies on a recurring subscription basis to content providers, such as the financially hard-hit magazine sector. The Digital Marketing business will be an attempt to provide such digital publishers with marketing tools and real-time analytics solutions for their Web sites and media operations. Adobe is also promising to enable Web content to work across different device form factors, which can be problematic.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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