Adobe has stopped developing Flash Player for Google Android and BlackBerry Tablet OS. The new Google Chrome web browser for Android doesn’t support the current version of Flash. Apple has never supported Flash for the iPhone or iPad. And now it looks like Microsoft is following suit: Internet Explorer for Windows 8 on ARM won’t support Flash.
In fact, if you pick up a tablet or other device with an ARM-based processor and Windows 8 operating system later this year, the default web browser won’t support any plugins at all, at least not initially.
On the other hand, users who are used to customizing the features of their web browsers will likely be disappointed by the move. It’s not entirely clear at this point whether Microsoft will allow competing browsers such as Firefox or Google Chrome to be downloaded from the Windows Store (which is officially the only place to download apps for Windows on ARM), but given Microsoft’s past anti-trust kerfuffles with various governments, I’d be surprised if the company tried to keep alternate web browsers out.
As for Flash – a few years ago it was virtually the only game in town if you wanted to watch web video, play online games, or create web pages that acted almost like desktop apps. But a lot’s changed in the last few years and it’s possible to do most of those things in a modern web browser without any plugins at all.
Meanwhile, Adobe never did a great job of adapting Flash to work on phones and tablets that relied on finger input rather than a mouse or keyboard. If you try visiting Flash websites in a mobile Flash-capable browser, you may find what you’re looking for — but you also may get a message letting you know that the site isn’t optimized for mobile devices.
But as Adobe drops support for mobile operating systems (and mobile software makers drop support for Flash), I have to wonder if the change is limited to mobile only. I suspect plugins for desktop browsers will be around for a while — but will Adobe Flash continue to be one of them?