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Today we either saw the first effects of Adobe’s decision to stop developing Flash for mobile, or another example of why it has not gotten very far on mobile in the first place: it turns out that the newest iteration of the Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, does not currently include Flash support. (As it turns out, Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) has confirmed it will be there by the end of the year.)
The discovery was made first by the blog SlashGear, which notes that not only is Flash not pre-loaded on the new Ice Cream Sandwich device, but it doesn’t appear to come up in the Market app storefront, either.
When asked about this, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) confirmed to the blog that Flash for Ice Cream Sandwich had not yet been released but “as far as we know, Adobe will support Flash for ICS.”
Update: A spokesperson for Adobe has emailed us a statement:
“We are planning a final release of Flash Player for Android by the end of the year that supports the Android browser on Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), after which we will continue providing updates for critical bug fixes and security patches for existing supported device configurations.”
Additionally, Adobe also plans to release one more version of its Flash Linux Porting Kit by that time.
It was only two weeks ago, on November 9, that Adobe announced that it would be discontinuing Flash for mobile devices and would instead concentrate on developing for HTML5 (fast emerging as the standard for web video) and Adobe Air for apps.
At the time, Adobe confirmed that as part of that, it would “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 the BlackBerry PlayBook.
That Android Flash support came out the very next day, when Adobe posted a new app to the Market on November 10. Shouldn’t that, theoretically, be the end of the story? Google seems to indicate otherwise.
We have contacted Adobe to clarify this. Meanwhile, that it took a few days for the tech world to sit up and notice the lack of Android support in those new devices is a bit of a damning vote for how relevant Flash might for people to enjoy mobile content anyway.
The argument up to now has been that Flash is very ubiquitous in the wider internet, and as mobile devices become more capable there would be more need for them to work more like computers, and to therefore be able to read Flash-enabled video and audio content, in order to have a truly seamless web media experience.
But even that position seems to be getting questioned: a November report from Web Technology Surveys notes that Flash is only used on 26 percent of all websites, and is in decline.
That seems to indicate that even if Flash does get released for Android Ice Cream Sandwich, it might not be as useful as one thinks.