Follow-up: Why Adobe's mobile strategy is fundamentally flawed

I initially wrote this as a comment in my previous post: Why Adobe's mobile strategy is fundamentally flawed as a response to Rachel Luxemburg's comment but it grew somewhat so, in the interest of keeping comments short and succinct, here it is in its own post:

"Frankly, if you’re that convinced that Flash simply isn’t suitable for the mobile space, then you’re right, you’re going to get very frustrated at Adobe for not giving up and going home." (Rachel)

Nope, you're not getting my point: I'm saying that Flash (the IDE) and Flash (the frameworks, the language/AS3, etc.) are tremendously suited for the mobile space. In fact, they're probably the most rapid tools available for creating mobile experiences at the moment.

What I'm saying is that the Flash Player is not suited for the mobile space.

Adobe cannot differentiate the two. In fact Adobe sees the goal of the game as Flash Player penetration across mobile devices. When you talk about "giving up and going home" that would be a good thing because you're playing the wrong game.

The game should be: how can we get more developers to buy and use the Flash IDE (and perhaps Flash Builder too, one day) to build mobile experiences. Notice the *buy* bit. You guys actually make money by selling software licenses. So if people can build great experiences easily using your tools, they'll buy more of your tools. If those experiences end up second rate because they are severely handicapped by having to go through a limited VM on an already limited device, then they won't buy your tools.

So Adobe probably wants to get in on the game with mobile app revenues. Good market. Do you really think that any of the major operators or handset manufacturers want you to get a piece of that pie? At best they'll tolerate you as a second-class citizen on their platforms as an affront to Apple and the iPhone until they have their own stores and systems in place (I don't even really see that happening.) So you're back to not being able to monetize Flash on mobile, which leads to developers not creating content, and the whole enchilada that meant that Flash Lite was a failure (as Scott pointed out earlier, in apps, it has been used for phone UIs, although I wasn't impressed with any that I saw.)

"We choose to focus on the Flash Player rather than native support for any given subset of devices or mobile OSes for a lot of reasons, too many to list here really." (Rachel)

You guys "chose" it because it's the only game Adobe/Macromedia knows. It's also Flash Player penetration that made Flash what it is on the web. But mobile is not the web and you're trying to implement the same strategy there. It's not going to work. The fragmentation is too great and whereas Flash was leading the medium on the web, you're playing catch-up on mobile. And you're focussing your energies on implementing features (in this case, cross-device support across a range of devices) while others are focussing on refining and redefining the bounds of what's possible in the realm of mobile user experience.

I'm not asking you to give up and go home. I'm asking you to stop playing the wrong game.

"One really big reason, though, is that we’re not fighting an uphill battle to get Flash into mobile. Device manufacturers (with the obvious exception of Apple) want Flash on their phones and have been working with Adobe to help get it there – both so that their users can get the full Internet on their phones, and so that developers and designers can create mobile-specific Flash applications." (Rachel)

You're mixing up in-browser Flash support with standalone Flash application support on mobile devices. Sure, most device manufacturers want the former. It's a competitive advantage (for the most part, at least; see my note regarding Flash ads, etc. in the main article). I'm talking about standalone Flash apps. And there it's not in their best interests to make Flash a first-class citizen since they want to milk this lucrative cash cow themselves.

Finally, regarding the note that I'm going to "get very frustrated" that Adobe sticks to business as usual with its mobile strategy. Not at all. Do you seriously think developers sit idle, getting frustrated at technologies or tools these days? Nope, they move on because we are living in a wonderful supply market with an overabundance of tools, technologies, and platforms. The scarce resource today is developer time.

Personally, I'm already comfortable with Cocoa Touch and Objective-C and happily making apps for the iPhone. I am also very excited by the open web and the directions that Palm are taking with their WebOS and will be devoting my scarce time to at least learning their frameworks. I'm intrigued by Android – so much so that I might actually delve a little into Java and their frameworks if I ever end up getting an Android phone. Finally, I'm really excited about the iPhone export in Flash CS5 and I still feel that AIR has a lot to offer so I definitely will not be ignoring those.

But I don't see myself making a standalone Flash app for a mobile device in the future.