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Adobe Pulls Flash Plans for Windows Mobile

Forget the debate over desiring Adobe Flash on Apple’s mobile platform — Flash isn’t landing on existing Windows Mobile (s msft)  handsets, either. The news is an about-face on Adobe’s (s adbe) part, as it originally planned to deliver Flash 10.1 to Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. Adobe’s Open Screen Project kicked off last October and promised multiplatform mobile Flash support this year. Microsoft’s phones were part of that promise, and while Adobe couldn’t have known the details of Microsoft’s next-generation devices back then, it does now. The company has reportedly reworked its Flash strategy and is now deferring mobile Flash support to Windows Phone 7 Series devices.

Adobe is the second major developer in two days to abandon current Windows Mobile devices — just yesterday, Skype pulled its mobile client because it says it can’t offer a proper experience to its customers. Since the Skype reasoning is easily backed up by a horrendous issue out of the company’s control — the app can’t natively access the standard ear speaker of a phone — I’m inclined to understand its move. I don’t necessarily agree with it, since the issue is several years old and there’s no harm in leaving the download out there, but I do understand it. However, I’m baffled by the Adobe rationale — something just doesn’t wash. Here’s the quote that IntoMobile attributes to an Adobe representative:

“As for WinMo, we have made the tough decision to defer support for that platform until WinMo7. This is due to the fact that WinMo6.5 does not support some of the critical APIs that we need.”

The second statement only makes sense if Adobe just started coding Flash 10.1 for the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform. Clearly, that’s the not the case because early public beta developer builds of 10.1 were seen running on Windows Mobile devices last May.  Here’s a refresher if you didn’t see it — note that the device is a Toshiba TG01 which debuted with Windows Mobile 6.1.

Watch video of Flash Player 10.1 on the Toshiba TG01 smartphone

So if there are some critical APIs that Windows Mobile 6.5 doesn’t support, isn’t it likely that Adobe would have known about them months ago? The answer is yes.

[related-posts align=”left” tag=”Smartphones”]I’m starting to believe that Microsoft’s clean break between the old — but current — Windows Mobile and the new Windows Phone 7 Series runs the risk of an Osborne effect on developers, not to mention potential customers. Yes, Microsoft has said that Windows Mobile 6.x will be supported for some time and that the two platforms will co-exist, but can developers afford to dedicate limited resources to both systems? And although many mainstream consumers may not yet fully understand the difference between Windows Mobile and Windows Phone, at some point soon, they surely will. Once they find out that new and improved handsets running Microsoft’s mobile platform are coming soon, might they simply wait on a purchase?

At this point, I’m keenly interested in news from next month’s MIX10 event, where Microsoft will educate developers on the Windows Phone 7 Series framework. Armed with more information, I expect one of two things to happen: Developers will either voice their support for a two platform approach or we’ll see more announcements like those from Skype and Adobe — shops waiting on the new mobile train before boarding the platform.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Brewing a Better Web Video Experience

11 Responses to “Adobe Pulls Flash Plans for Windows Mobile”

  1. This is precisely why dependence on a third party to support a plug-in for viewing internet content is sooo dangerous.

    Open standards means anyone can come in an develop a viewer. Closed standards like flash make this impossible.

  2. If software developers run away this paranoid now from 6.x then I have to wonder if current WinMo handset sales are going to flop. Given that the price of a new unlocked HTC TP2 is still in the $600 range, I’m now a little adamant to make ANY purchase this year, and not risk investing in a platform that may be perhaps within months away of becoming obsolete.

    Announcements like these, while forward thinking, really hurt current users, as well as handset sales. The TP2 is by far from obsolete hardware, and WM 6.5.3 was only just recently released. If MS has promised to support the present platform – and with handsets continuing to ship with 6.x for the foreseeable future – it would seem logical then for developers to continue to support existing products, rather than send the current user base up the creek.

  3. latest news is that Flash 10.1 will only work with
    ARMv7. but I am sure it has to do with H.264
    hardware support in the GPU.
    It is amazing that Adobe has been crying about
    iPhone for 3 years yet has not been able to
    put in any of the so called open platforms.
    This tells me that Adobe has been lying all along.
    Not to talking about touch support.

  4. Running the risk of being an off-topic troll, I gotta disagree on the harmlessness of leaving Skype’s current WinMo download out there. plenty of existing WinMo owners will still try it out, and people buying current 6.5 devices will too. When they have a terrible experience on the poorly designed devices, who are they going to blame—the manufacturer, or Skype? I bet you 10 times out of 10, it’s Skype.

    Granted, Skype took way, way too long to make this decision. But after working for a software company whose products integrate with and depend quite a bit on third parties, I can completely understand finally cutting the chord in this context.

    • No risk to that at all, David. In fact, I encourage viewpoints from those in the development space simply because I’m not in it. ;)

      I agree with your point and even said just that in a comment on the news yesterday — it’s tough to get blamed constantly for something beyond your control. I just wonder about the timing.

    • I never had any problems with Skype on my WiMo phone 3 years ago – it was always the prohibitively expensive data plans limiting it to WiFi that was the problem. The ability of the hardware is a bogus argument.

      The real reason Skype and now adobe are dropping “classic” is that they can see the writing on the wall. MS are turning their back on the still large, loyal WiMo customer base. The platform is history. Why spend resources on it?

  5. I don’t think developers can or will support both especially since it is not clear that any coding you will do for old WinMo will be of any use in Series 7. That’s fine by me though because I’d rather they choose the future than the past.

    MS had to know that current sales would crater even more but since it isn’t clear that current handsets will move to 7 I’m not sure what the point of pissing of another round of new buyers would do for them. It was clearly more important to them to let people know that they are “getting it” than it was to keep selling the tired, old dead ended horse they have been flogging. As hard a hill as MS has to climb (or more accurately out of the hole they dug) they will still be able to move millions of handsets in a way that Palm has not be able too so ultimately at least major dev support will be there though probably a lot of smaller house will have had it with their mucking around.