Adobe Abandons Flash for Mobile… What does it mean?

“Flash is the NOT the future of the web”. I agree with this statement because today’s “web experience” is designed with iPad in mind. However, Flash/Flex is by no means dead with today’s announcement that Adobe will no longer develop the mobile Flash player.

So while we know that Flash is not the future of the web, I believe that for specialized applications, dashboard visualization, and web animation, Flash has a significantly longer shelf life. We are in an awkward transition period right now because HTML5 does not translate well to sophisticated dashboards and data visualization / discovery… It is just not that simple.

Is HTML5 ready for prime time yet? 

Technologies like Javascript, SVG, and HTML5 combined create a powerful alternative to Flash for creating rich web user experiences.  However, when it comes to enterprise applications, HTML5 presents a problem in the short term. “Develop once deploy everywhere” right now is nearly impossible with so much fragmentation, specifically if you are wanting to use HTML5.

To prove this point, 70% of you reading this article are NOT using a browser that supports HTML5.. That is a stat that I pulled directly from my Google Analytics page. The adoption and growth of HTML5 will be highly dependent how fast consumers are forced to update/upgrade their desktop browsers, which is a rigid process in the enterprise. For example, 32% of you reading this article are using IE 7 and IE8 which are limited in their support of HTML5 features.

What about Xcelsius?

For Xcelsius, today’s Adobe announcement changes nothing unless you buy into the media storm that declares Apple a winner and Adobe a loser. I have yet to see anything in the marketplace that produces the user experience, design flexibility, and power of Xcelsius specifically designed for SAP BusinessObjects. If mobile is an absolute requirement for your organization, I would not wait around for “Mobile Xcelsius”, but instead evaluate some of the new mobile technologies from SAP and partners.

Today, Xcelsius (SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards) and SAP Explorer are both browser-based, Flash tools. They were never built with mobile in-mind, which is why SAP re-built the Explorer experience as a native iOS app. This process is not as simple for Xcelsius because the user experience for every dashboard application is completely different. Even if I could wave a magic wand and make Xcelsius work on an iPad, it would require some fundamental changes to allow for mobile security, a user experience overhaul for gestures, and somehow re-authoring the Excel engine in another technology.

I have absolutely not counted out Xcelsius, as new partners, community members, and experts continue to join and push the ecosystem forward. As long as I know there is forward development at SAP on this technology, I am still optimistic of its future.

Are there alternatives?

I think Antivia is onto something with their Flexwis which takes advantage of  the Flex platform to deploy to Flash on the desktop, and to native iPad / Android apps. Adobe has made incredible strides with their Flex development platform for mobile which looks very promising for this Flexwis platform. For pure mobile reporting/dashboards out the box, Roambi is at the absolute top of my list without any exception. Finally, SAP does have a few brand new mobile reporting/dashboard solutions that I haven’t had time to put through their paces, but look very promising if they deliver as advertised. I will be reporting on them very soon with some good feedback to the community.

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear your opinions, concerns and questions about today’s announcements, my experiences with building HTML5 apps vs Flash, etc.


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