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Flash might not be dead, but Adobe is acting like it knows it's past its prime.

Case in point: the company ditched Flash for mobile late last year, and is increasingly hedging its bets with investments in standards-based web technologies like HTML5.

Today, Adobe released a roadmap (PDF) for Flash Player and as The Verge observes, the software giant will be narrowing its focus:

Future bug fixes and developments will be prioritized around two key areas: gaming and the deployment of so-called premium video. Relying on its nearly universal distribution, Adobe hopes to see Flash maintain its position as a leader in browser-based games (something that Google is actively challenging with its Chrome Native Client development kit) and will seek to support its developers with a formalized game dev program and a set of unspecified game services. On the video side of things, Adobe pledges closer collaboration with hardware partners and the delivery of its video streaming and content protection technology to more platforms in native formats.

Flash haters, of which there are many, will certainly see this as a sign that Flash is on its death bed. But is that actually the case?

No.

In reality, Adobe's focus on gaming and premium video is just a response to where the market is already going. At one time, Flash was a wonderful, albeit imperfect, means to an end. There were simply things you couldn't do (or couldn't do easily) without something like Flash, so it filled in the gaps.

But as technology has evolved, the number of gaps Flash needs to fill are decreasing. Although more and more is being done with HTML5 and JavaScript, gaming is arguably one of them, as there are simply things that can't (yet) be done with HTML and JavaScript. And although web video will continue to move away from Flash, there's still likely going to be a market for Flash in the "premium" (read: DRM protected) video space.

Adobe narrowing its focus to the areas where it's wanted and/or needed is a smart move. The big challenge for Adobe, however, is making sure that it doesn't narrow too much, too soon, particularly in markets where there is still a role for Flash Player. On this note, I was critical of the company's plans to drop support for Flex. Flex is most commonly used in the enterprise, where there are a variety of reasons companies would much prefer (and even need) to use Flash to deliver their RIAs.

Expect other conflicts like this to emerge as Adobe looks to a post-Flash world. As I noted in my post about Flex, how well Adobe handles them could very well impact how well Adobe does in the HTML5 world.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 February, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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