Dropping the Ball on Mobile Application Development

OK. I need to get this off my chest. I’m not a fan of Adobe’s attempt to get into the mobile application game.

There. I said it. That feels better.

But why am I not a fan of what they’ve done? Quite frankly, in the process of trying to build a mobile application with Flash Builder 4.5, I’m finding myself either engineering components from scratch, or reengineering the default “mobile-optimized” components to get them to do what I want/need. Plus, I’m finding that in an application of even a decent size (more than just a “hello world” app with a couple simple views like Adobe likes to show off to get Flash developers excited about mobile apps), the optimization and performance are still lacking.

Maybe I’m just being pessimistic. And maybe I’m not doing everything correctly to get things optimized for the mobile app. Honestly, I hope that I am missing something that I’ll catch soon and have a light bulb-over-the-head moment. But my experience thus far has taught me that Steve Jobs was right in bashing Adobe’s ability to create mobile-optimized content.

Here’s a snippet from a blog post from Steve Jobs, dated April 2010:

“We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

“This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.”

Jobs, Steve. “Thoughts on Flash.” Apple. Apple Inc., Apr. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.


As you probably noticed, this post was from April of 2010. Yeah, that’s over a year and a half ago. And guess what? Adobe still doesn’t have it right. They’re close. But not there. And with the news of Adobe dropping mobile support for Flash Player a couple weeks ago, I’m guessing they never will be there. They may try to really hone in on the mobile application side, rather than just the Flash Player plugin for mobile, and they may get close. But like Jobs eluded to, Adobe holds all of its developers at the mercy of when they choose to adopt new features, whereas developing a mobile application natively gives immediate access to the full spectrum of features.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely agreeing with the Flash haters out there who think that all Flash needs to go away—there is definitely still a time and place for Flash on the web. I’m just agreeing that Adobe needs to realize what their strengths are, and really concentrate on them rather than trying to get a foot into every single realm and telling developers that the Adobe solution will change their lives and work seamlessly.

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