Tag Archives: flash

Flash developers fret as Adobe doubles down on PhoneGap


Adobe has announced Experience Manager Apps for Marketers and Developers. This comes in two flavours: Experience Manager Apps is for marketers, and PhoneGap Enterprise is for developers. The announcements are unfortunately sketchy when it comes to details, though Andre Charland’s post has a little more:

  • Better collaboration – With our new PhoneGap Enterprise app, developer team members and business colleagues can view the latest version of apps in production, development and staging

  • App editing capabilities – Non-developer colleagues can edit and improve the app experience using a simple drag-and-drop interface from the new Adobe Experience Manager apps; this way developers can focus on building new features, not on making updates.

  • Analytics & optimization – Teams can immediately start measuring app performance with Adobe Analytics; we’re also planning to incorporate functionality so teams can start A/B testing their way to higher app engagement and monetization using Adobe Target.

  • Push notifications – Engage your customers on-the-go with push notifications from Adobe Campaign

  • Support and training – PhoneGap Enterprise comes with SLA and support so customers can be rest assured that Adobe PhoneGap has their back.

Head over to the PhoneGap Enterprise site and you get nothing more than a “Get in touch” button.


Announcement-ware then. Still, enough to rile Flash and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) developers who feel that Adobe is abandoning a better technology for app development. Despite the absence of the Flash runtime on Apple iOS, you can still build mobile apps by compiling the code with a native wrapper.

Adobe… this whole thread should make you realize what an awesome platform and die hard fans you have in AIR. Even after all that crap you pulled with screwing over Flex developers, mitigating Flash to just games, retreating it from the web, killing AS4 and god knows what else you’ve done to try to kill the community’s spirit. WE STILL WANT AIR!

says one frustrated developer.

Gary Paluk has also posted on the subject:

I have invested 13 years of my own development career in Adobe products and evangelized the technology over that time. Your users can see that there is a perfectly good technology that does more than the new HTML5 offerings and they are evidently frustrated that you are not supporting developers that do not understand why they are being forced to retrain to use inferior technologies.

Has Adobe in fact abandoned Flash and AIR? Not quite; but as this detailed roadmap shows, plans for a next-generation Flash player have been abandoned and Adobe is now focused on “web-based virtual machines,” meaning I guess JavaScript and other browser technologies:

Adobe will focus its future Flash Player development on top of the existing Flash Player architecture and virtual machine, and not on a completely new virtual machine and architecture (Flash Player "Next") as was previously planned. At the same time, Adobe plans to continue its next-generation virtual machine and language work as part of the larger web community doing such work on web-based virtual machines.

From my perspective, Adobe seemed to mostly lose interest in the developer community after its November 2011 shift to digital marketing, other than in an “apps for marketing” context. Its design tools on the other hand go from strength to strength, and the transition to subscription in the form of Creative Cloud has been brilliantly executed.

Adobe launches Game Developer Tools including Scout profiler

Adobe is reminding developers that Flash is still around as a game development platform, with the release of a Game Developer Tools package including a Gaming SDK, the Flash C++ Compiler which translates C++ to ActionScript, Flash Professional CS6 and Flash Builder 4.7.

The new thing here is the Scout profiler, previewed as Monocle, which is now available for Creative Cloud subscribers. Scout is a desktop app which profiles Flash apps that have telemetry enabled. The app has to be running in Flash Player 11.4 or higher and have Advanced Telemetry enabled for most of the features to work. You can analyse the time taken for ActionScript code to execute, CPU usage, rendering time for the Flash DisplayList, and record Stage3D commands (hardware accelerated 2D and 3D graphics).

Normally Scout analyses Flash content running on the same machine, but there is a companion agent that you can use on iOS and Android for remote profiling of mobile apps.


I downloaded and installed the Game Development but with only partial success, since I mainly use Windows 8 and the Flash Player there is behind that used on Windows 7 and Mac. The reason is that Flash Player is now updated via Windows Update, and this additional step seems to mean delays. I was able to try out Scout using Google Chrome, which has a Flash Player 11.5 installed, but have not yet figured out how to update the default Flash Player for the system which is used by Flash Professional and Flash Builder. At the time of writing this is Flash Player 11.3, which is insufficient for the Game Development Tools.

Flash is a strong platform for game development, though it has lost momentum now that Adobe is betting mainly on HTML 5. I also hear a lot about Unity for cross-platform game development. Unity lets you publish to Adobe Flash Player, giving you more choices than with pure Flash development.

BBC replaces Flash with Flash in Android iPlayer

The BBC has announced its solution to the lack of mobile Flash on Android devices, which meant that its iPlayer catch-up service did not work on recent devices like Google’s popular Nexus 7 (though there are hacks to make it work).

However, the BBC is not really replacing Flash, but instead creating a media player that is compiled from Flash into a native Android app. This means that the Flash runtime is compiled into the app.

In the end, Flash was still the best choice of media format for us to use. And the only practical technology for us to play this format back on Android is Adobe Air.

says the BBC’s Chris Yanda.

Yanda points out that using HTTP Live Streaming is impractical since it is not supported on versions of Android prior to Honeycomb; and the majority of Android devices in use are Froyo or Gingerbread.

Judging by the comments, users are glad to have something but disappointed with the BBC’s support for Android. The native iOS app is much better, especially considering that it now supports downloads. On a recent flight I took an iPad with me solely for the ability to watch iPlayer content offline.

Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows RT tablets will support Flash, as I understand it, though only for a limited subset of web sites. Presuming BBC iPlayer is on that list, it should work.


Adobe results: 200,000 Creative Cloud subscribers and an impressive transition

Adobe has released its quarterly figures for its third financial quarter 2012. The figures show the success of Creative Cloud, Adobe’s subscription-based model for purchasing the Creative Suite applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat and Flash. Total revenue is fractionally up on the same period in 2011, from $1013.2M to $1080.6M.

Adobe reports over 200,000 paid subscribers and 8,000 new subscriptions per week, compared to its projections of only 5,000 per week.

The Creative Cloud model has several advantages for Adobe. First, it gives assurance of a steady continuing income rather than the pain of driving a 2 year upgrade cycle. Second, it forms a platform from which to sell other products and services.

Adobe also says that its publishing platform, the Digital Publishing Suite, now has 1,100 customers distributing on average 125,000 publications daily, mainly to the iPad, with over 40 million delivered to date. This is good business for Adobe since it generally charges a fee per download.

The slight downside for Adobe is that the launch of Creative Suite 6 delivered lower initial revenue than is usual for a new launch, because customers are transitioning to the subscription model. That is not really a downside, but rather a sign that the strategy is working.

What impresses me about Adobe is how well the company has survived the decline of Flash and the relative failure of its efforts in enterprise applications (the digital enterprise segment is now subsumed in the figures into “Digital Marketing”). The segment breakdown for the third quarter looks like this:


  • Digital Media (Creative Cloud) 769.1 (71%)
  • Digital Marketing (analytics etc) 257.1 (24%)
  • Print and Publishing 54.4 (5%)

Think back a couple of years. Adobe was dependent on sales of shrink-wrap software and had a range of products which pivoted around Flash as the universal runtime and rendering engine. Now it has some claim to being a cloud company – though of course the primary benefit of Creative Cloud is in desktop software applications that you download – and in place of Flash it it betting on HTML5, together with its ability to compile Flash-based content into native applications.

The transition is not so easy for developers who invested in the Flash platform, coding applications in Flex and ActionScript. Adobe has stopped developing Flash for mobile, even on Android and other mobile platforms where it is not blocked. Still, if that has pushed developers into targeting HTML5 earlier than they would otherwise have considered, it may not be a bad thing.

Enable Adobe Flash and BBC iPlayer on the Google Nexus 7

Annoyed that BBC iPlayer does not work on Google’s Nexus 7? There is a fix; though note that Adobe Flash is not supported on Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” and the official advice is to put up with the lack of Flash, and wait for the BBC to provide a non-Flash option for Nexus 7 and other recent Android devices. The steps below may stop working as the Nexus 7 update itself, who knows?

If you are impatient though, here is what you have to do.

1. Download the Flash APK, for example from XDA Developers here.

2. Rename it from .zip to .apk if necessary, and tap it on your Nexus 7 device. It will tell you that it cannot be installed, but prompt to access settings where you can tick to allow installation from unknown sources:


3. Now retry installation and it will work.

4. Install Firefox Beta from the Play Store. Flash does not work with Chrome on the Nexus.

5. Tap the 3 dots in Firefox, go to Plugins, and tap Enabled.

6. Power off your Nexus 7 and restart (it did not work for me until I did that).

7. Go to watch an iPlayer video. You get a message informing you that your phone is not supported. Tap the three dots again and then Request Desktop Site.


8. Enjoy iPlayer. Full screen works; though I have to admit, Firefox crashed when I switched to another app and I had to Force Stop. Nevertheless, the video played sweetly enough while I was watching.


Adobe Flash in Windows 8 Metro, but not technically a plug-in

Today’s Windows 8 rumour is that Adobe Flash will be baked into Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8, not only in the desktop edition but also in Metro.

Until this is confirmed by Microsoft, it is only a rumour. However, it seems likely to me. The way this rumour mill works is:

  • Some journalists and book authors working closely with Microsoft already have information on Windows 8 that is under non-disclosure.
  • Some enthusiast sites obtain leaked builds of Windows 8 and poke around in them. Unlike new Mac OS X releases, Windows builds are near-impossible to keep secure because Microsoft needs to share them with hardware partners, and mysteriously copies turn up on on the Internet.
  • When an interesting fact is leaked, this allows those journalists and book authors who already have the information to write about it, since most non-disclosure agreements allow reporting on what is already known from other sources.

That is my understanding, anyway. So when you read on WinUnleaked.tk that Flash is in IE10 you may be sceptical; but when Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera report the same story in more detail, you can probably believe it.

Back to the main story: presuming this is accurate, Microsoft has received Flash source code from Adobe and integrated it into IE10, in a similar manner to what Google has done with Flash in Chrome. This means that Flash in IE10 is not quite a plug-in. However, on the Metro side the inclusion of Flash is apparently a compatibility feature:

So, Microsoft has extended the Internet Explorer Compatibility View list to include rules for popular Flash-based web sites that are known to meet certain criteria. That is, Flash is supported for only those popular but legacy web sites that need it. This feature is not broadly available for all sites.

say Thurrott and Rivera, though I presume this only applies to the Metro IE10 rather than the desktop version.

Does this make sense? Not altogether. Oddly, while I have heard plenty of criticism of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I have not heard many objections to the lack of Flash in Metro IE. Since Apple does not support Flash on iOS, many sites already provide Flash-free content for tablet users. Further, on the x86 version of Windows 8 there is an easy route to Flash compatibility: just open the site in the desktop browser.

That said, there is still plenty of Flash content out there and being able to view it in Windows 8 is welcome, especially if you can make your own edits to the compatibility list to get Flash content on less well-known sites. My guess is that Microsoft wants to support Flash for the same reason Android devices embraced it: a tick-box feature versus Apple iOS.

One further thought: this is a sad moment for Silverlight, if Microsoft is supporting Flash but not Silverlight on the Metro side of Windows 8.

Adobe will charge a royalty for use of “Premium features” in Flash Player

Adobe has announced that from August 1 2012, developers who make use of hardware-accelerated Stage3D in Flash Player, in combination with Domain Memory, will pay a 9% net revenue share as royalty. Net revenue is what remains after taxes, payment processing fees and “social network platform fees” (sounds like Facebook) are deducted.

“Domain Memory” is a block of memory declared as a byte array that is used as memory by the Alchemy C/C++ to ActionScript compiler. Allocating some bytes from this byte array is much faster than asking the Flash Player to grab some real memory from the system for your new object or variable, and manipulating memory via this technique is quicker too. In other words, it is a hack to improve performance.

Adobe is aiming the new licensing arrangement at games developers. Most developers will not be affected because of the following:

  • A license is only needed if both Stage3D hardware acceleration and Domain Memory are used. Use just one of these and you are fine.
  • If the game or app is packaged using Adobe AIR for iOS, Android, Windows or Mac (in other words, anywhere) then no license is needed.
  • Applications that make less than $50,000 in revenues (not clear whether this is net or gross) will be royalty-free
  • Applications released before July 31 2012 will remain royalty-free

There may be a program fee however, which I imagine will apply whether or not you pay royalties.

Although the new royalty is not all that onerous, it is significant as a change of direction. Until now, the deal with all these runtimes – Flash Player, Silverlight, Java – is that you might pay for the tools, but the runtime is free.

If you are considering Flash versus other runtimes for your new project, Adobe has now informed you that future free use of the runtime is not a foregone conclusion. Who knows what Adobe will define as “premium features” that might require royalties in future?

According to the FAQ, further premium features are indeed planned:

We are already planning premium features that enable "instant play" gaming experiences for content that relies on large assets which will be able to cache data using a local storage API. For content publishers looking for better branding and user acquisition, another planned new feature would allow apps to request if the user would like to create a shortcut on the desktop, task bar or start menu pointing to the application.

Overall it seems a curious move, at a time when Adobe seems to be moving away from Flash and towards HTML5 as its long-term strategy. The company may profit a little from a few high-profile games, but the dampening effect on Flash usage in the long term will offset any advantage.

No developer likes to pay runtime royalties and I would guess that Adobe’s move will spark an immediate search for alternatives.

Update: there is a great discussion of the issue with participation from Adobe’s Thibault Imbert here. Why the change in direction, when Adobe has previously made money from its tools:

at some point you are capped. Ask any tooling company today, hence why you see companies going to consumers, services, because games could generate millions of revenue with maybe 200 copies of Flash Builder and Flash Pro sold. Is it a good business? Not really.

says Imbert. Another issue is that third-party tools for Flash have been taking market share away from Adobe, which must hurt:

The model where Adobe invests all of the resources in developing the Flash Player, and then projects such as Haxe and Unity pull developers away from Adobe tooling is one that was not sustainable under the old model. Under the new model, it doesnt matter which tools and technologies you are using to develop Flash content, since revenue is generated based on the runtime and not tooling.

says Adobe’s Mike Chambers.

Adobe: why the big business shift when financial results look so good?

Adobe released its quarterly and full year results last week; I am catching up with this now after a week in China.

The company is doing well. Revenue is up by 11% year on year and it generated $1.5 billion in cash. It is buying back shares, usually a sign that a company has more money than it knows what to do with.

Here is the comparison with the equivalent quarter last year:

  Q4 2010 Q4 2011
Creative and interactive 404.8 437.2
Digital Media 165.9 186.4
Digital Enterprise 273.3 342.4
Omniture 109.0 131.1
Print and publishing 55 55.1

In other words, all business segments grew – impressive in uncertain economic times. See this earlier post for a rough breakdown of the segments.

A couple of observations. First, Adobe is benefiting from the big trend in IT towards web, cloud and device. Many companies regard apps (as in mobile apps) as vehicles for marketing, and Adobe’s tools are a natural fit, with or without Flash. We are in a more design-centric IT world than was the case a few years back, driven by Apple, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), and just because we can: technology now performs basic computing functions with ease so design becomes the key differentiator.

Adobe is nevertheless remarkable in the way it has managed the transition from print to digital. Few companies manage that kind of fundamental shift in their market successfully.

The other point that interests me is why Adobe announced a major change in its business model in November. Digital media and marketing will be the focus, while it winds down its enterprise development platform, as well as moving away from Flash and focusing on HTML5 for delivery.

Unless the announced figures disguise future problems that are only visible on the inside, this move was driven by bad results. Digital Enterprise, which includes the middleware business, increased revenue by 25% over the same quarter last year.

In 2012 the Digital Enterprise segment is being renamed Digital Marketing Solutions, expressing the company’s intent.

Adobe’s change of direction caught me by surprise, as it was not really flagged at the MAX conference the previous month, though there was evidence of struggle with regard to Flash versus HTML5.

I would describe Adobe’s moves as bold. Taking action ahead of when it becomes inevitable is a good thing, but there are significant risks. Adobe’s platform is all about synergies, and chopping off bits that still have a significant following may have unexpected consequences.

Another curious facet of Adobe’s move is that its normally excellent PR department has done little, as far as I am aware, to brief the press. Major news concerning what will be donated to Apache, or the discontinuation of Flash Catalyst, has emerged from sporadic reports instead. Normally that is a sign of a company under stress, rather than one which is about to deliver excellent results.

I guess this time next year we will have a clearer picture.

Adobe discontinues Flash Catalyst, clarifies Flex and Flash Builder futures

Adobe has told a group of Flex developers, invited to San Francisco for a special reconciliatory summit following the sudden announcement that Flex is moving to the Apache Foundation, that Flash Catalyst will be discontinued. Developer Fabien Nicollet was there and posts:

CS5.5 version of Catalyst is the latest version of Flash Catalyst. It is compatible with Flex 4.5, but compatibility will not be ensured for future versions.

Flash Builder will also have features removed in future versions. Adobe’s slide talks of:

Removing unpopular and expensive to maintain features: Design View, Data Centric Development (DCD) and Flash Catalyst workflows.

The Monocle profiler, shown at the MAX conference as a sneak peek, “continues as a priority”.

The FalconJS project, to compile Flex to HTML5, will be discontinued, though possibly donated to Apache at a date to be determined.

AIR on Linux will not be given to Apache because it would mean sharing the proprietary Flash Player code. This is bad news in the Apache context.

Nicollet concludes:

Flex still has a bright future for companies who want to build fast and robust applications . Not to mention the people who will have a hard time building complex applications on HTML5, for whom Flex will always be a viable and mature alternative.

That is the optimistic view. What is clear from the summit is that Adobe is greatly reducing its investment. I guess we knew this already; but hearing about how Flash Builder will be cut-down, Catalyst discontinued, and so on, will not improve developer confidence.

A lot depends on the progress of the Apache project. My concern here is that since the Flash player, which is the Flex runtime, remains proprietary, this will dampen enthusiasm in the open source community and limit its ability to innovate around Flex.

Silverlight 5 is done. Is Silverlight also done?

Microsoft has has announced the release of Silverlight 5.0.


Silverlight is a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in for Windows and Mac. It is relatively small size – less than 7MB according to Microsoft, though the Mac version seems to be bigger, with a 14MB compressed setup .dmg and apparently over 100MB once installed:


Never mind, it is a fine piece of work and has considerable capabilities, including the .NET Framework, the ability to render a GUI defined in XAML, multimedia playback, and support for applications running inside the browser or on the desktop. New in version 5 is better H.264 performance, 3D graphics, and Platform Invoke support on Windows enabling trusted applications to call the native API. Another change is that in-browser applications can also run with full trust, again only on Windows. The cross-platform idea has become increasingly diluted.

If Microsoft had come up with Silverlight early in the .NET story it might have become a major application platform. As it is, while still useful in some contexts, the technology has been side-lined by new things including HTML 5 and the Windows Runtime in the forthcoming Windows 8.

While I have huge respect for the team which created Silverlight and rapidly improved it, it now looks a sad story of reactive technology that failed to capture sufficient developer support. Microsoft invented Silverlight when Adobe Flash looked like it might take over as a universal runtime for web applications. The outcome was that Adobe evolved Flash with renewed vigour, keeping Silverlight at bay. Then Apple invented a new platform called iOS that supported neither Flash nor Silverlight, and the whole plug-in strategy began to look less compelling. Adobe has now reduced its focus on Flash, while Microsoft has been signalling a reduced role for Silverlight since its Professional Developers Conference in October 2010.

The question now is whether there will ever be a Silverlight 6.

Microsoft itself uses Silverlight across a number of products, such as administrative consoles for various server applications. Silverlight will be around for a while yet. Of course it is also the runtime for Windows Phone 7. Visual Studio LightSwitch generates Silverlight applications, and this one I am rather sad about, because it is an interesting tool that now seems to target the wrong platform. Perhaps the team will create an HTML 5 version one day.