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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.

In one way, this makes sense. Plugins take up system resources and can affect overall performance of an app… and even battery life in some situations. And it’s possible to do more than ever in a plugin-free browser thanks to advances in the way Javascript, HTML5, and other web technologies.

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?

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2 replies on “No Flash plugin for Windows 8 on ARM: Another nail in the Flash coffin?”

  1. Has there been any progress in non-Flash alternatives for browser based video streaming that require DRM? The majority of Flash videos I stream require DRM.

    1.  Not much progress at the moment, it’s one of the reasons why they are pushing more extreme security on mobile devices like locking the boot loader.

      The HD Netflix app for example requires it otherwise it will only stream SD video.

      Thing is the Flash player isn’t the only way we use Flash.  Like Adobe Flash Media Server allows streaming to even iOS, it just does it on the server side instead of on the device.  Along with apps developed with Air and other applications of Flash that most people never even know is being used.

      So along with reasons like DRM support, Flash will likely last at least a couple more years before we’re really ready to move past it.

      Flash will just serve a smaller and less noticeable role as they continue to push alternatives.  While Adobe will still allow other companies to develop Flash player if they want to.  Like RIM has said they will continue to support it for their devices.

      This is just the beginning though as plug-ins in general are being pushed out of mobile devices.  Even Windows 8 will be limiting them pretty much.  So they’re trying to reduce the work load of mobile devices to boost performance and increase run time.

      It’s just a question of how much of a walled garden will users be willing to accept to see how far they take this trend.

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