Last week, Adobe announced that it is abandoning Flash for mobiles and Flash for televisions.

It was a significant announcement that raised a lot of eyebrows, and led
some to question whether the end of Flash is near. One of Apple’s
biggest fanboys even went so far as to declare the company’s retreat
from mobile Steve Jobs’ last triumph.

But something much more fundamental is taking place at Adobe and it goes way beyond mobile. Take, for instance, the company’s decision to contribute its Flex SDK to an open source foundation. In a blog post, Adobe product managers Andrew Shorten and Deepa Subramaniam wrote:

In the long-term, we believe HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development.

They go on to note, “many of the engineers and product managers who worked on Flex SDK will be moving to work on our HTML efforts.

Although the post is extremely ambiguous, the underlying message seems clear: while Adobe says it will honor Flex support contracts and maintain Flash Builder, it appears it is in the process of washing its hands of Flex.

This might not seem like a big deal, except if you’re a development shop or company that has used Flex (and Flash) to build critical enterprise applications, of which there are more than a few. Some of those leaving comments, for instance, note that their companies and clients have invested millions of dollars on Flex-based projects. Needless to say, they’re anxiously awaiting clarification on just how quickly Adobe will be abandoning them.

The fact that Adobe is betting big on HTML5 is no secret. And while that bet may not be misplaced, the company’s latest sting of announcements raises the question: is Adobe betting too much, too soon? In the case of Flex, HTML5 is nowhere near ready to serve as a foundation for enterprise RIAs, and for some companies, there are a good number of scenarios under which a Flex application delivered in a Flash container makes a lot of sense.

There are plenty of other reasons Adobe should be wary of shifting its focus too. A big one: even if HTML5 is the future, it’s not at all evident that Adobe will be able to establish a leadership position in the HTML5 ecosystem. After all, many of the developers best positioned for the HTML5 world (those working with advanced HTML, CSS and JavaScript) don’t exactly have an affinity for Adobe. If you wanted to use Flash, you had to love Adobe (or learn to love it). That’s not the case for HTML5, and if Adobe wants to attract a different type of developer into its HTML5 fold, leaving all of the developers that invested their careers in Adobe’s technologies is probably not a good way to inspire confidence.

Putting it all together, the risk for Adobe is obvious: in an effort to remain relevant and get ahead of the curve, it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. At least some of its moves around Flash are far from strategic, and in a few years there’s a good chance Adobe will regret not having hedged its bets.