A former manager and engineer of Flash at Adobe said today that when the true smartphone revolution came in 2007 with the announcement of the iPhone is 2007, Adobe ignored it. Carlos Icaza co-founded Ansca Mobile, the creators of the Corona SDK, left Adobe in 2007 when his call for embracing the touchscreen smartphone evolution was ignored by Adobe executives.
“They ignored it until it was too late,” Icaza said. “They were not looking out for the best interest of developers.” According to Icaza, Adobe chose to focus at the time on apps for feature phones. Adobe’s lack of foresight put the company in catch up mode and ultimately headaches and ridicule of the mobile industry leading to the news that Flash for mobile will soon die.
Icaza started with Adobe in 1997 before moving to Macromedia, which was later acquired by Adobe for $3.1 billion, mostly for Flash. In an interview with ReadWriteWeb he said that half the mobile Flash team at Adobe carried iPhones in 2007. The writing was on the wall but Adobe ultimately thought that the iPhone would be a niche, which was popular stance among many executives and tech pundits at the time.
Flash forward more than four years later and Adobe finally has got the message.
“They dragged it on for months and months and three years down the line they finally kill it,” Icaza said.
When Adobe finally did figure out that touch screen smartphones were the future and not just a fad, it created a glut of tools (like Adobe AIR and the AIR Marketplace) that tried to do a little bit for everyone. AIR has been built into the toolset for creating BlackBerry apps, especially for the QNX/BBX platform and Flash has been given Android compatibility since the release of Frozen Yogurt. What really makes little sense is how Adobe was not able to develop Flash to actually work well on mobile devices. The focus has long been on making sure that Flash can do more, more, more and be something for everybody. Adobe never took a step back and said that to do more, Flash may have to do less.
“It became too much of a tangle,” Icaza said. “At the end of the day the focus on what was important was lost and what is important are the developers.”
Icaza said that Adobe wanted to recreate the success of Flash mobile for feature phones in the same way that it succeeded in Japan, where there is a large commuter society that spends a lot of time on their phones while in transit to and from work. Icaza implied that it was this focus on trying to replicate this process was what blinded Adobe from the early stages of the most important evolution in computing since the advent of the World Wide Web.
“Adobe said that smartphones were going to be a niche,” Icaza said.
In a blog post earlier this year, Icaza said that Flash ultimately became a second-class citizen within Adobe, taking a backseat to the developer tools that the company makes money from as opposed to the standard that many of them were built on.
“We were the darlings of the company,” Icaza said. “And we were ignored.”
And now, Adobe is going to focus on HTML5. To a certain extent, the cycle starts all over again. Adobe released EDGE and now FlashPro that will turn Flash into HTML5. Icaza said that Adobe will have a PR nightmare on its hands trying to convince its three million Flash developers to scrap projects in Flash and move to HTML5. If you read the Adobe Twitter account today, that push is well under way.
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