Back in November Adobe announced that it's now focusing on Flash for PC browsing and mobile apps packaged with Adobe AIR and that it will discontinuing its development of the Flash Player for mobile browsers as we know it for Android. Now, Adobe has given an update on its blog and this doesn't look too good for friends of mobile Flash; as a matter of fact it's looking really bad for the ongoing access to the Flash Player browser plugin for Android in the Google Play Store. As Dobe says, "The Flash Player browser plugin integrates tightly with a device's browser and multimedia subsystems (in ways that typical apps do not), and this necessitates integration by our device ecosystem partners".
And continues that "to ensure that the Flash Player provides the best possible experience for users, our partner program requires certification of each Flash Player implementation" which includes extensive testing to ensure web content works as expected, and that the Flash Player provides a good user experience. Certified devices, like the HTC One-series, typically include the Flash Player pre-loaded at the factory or as part of a system update.
So far so good but now comes the bad part of the update. Devices that don't have the Flash Player provided by the manufacturer typically are uncertified, meaning the manufacturer has not completed the certification testing requirements. "In many cases users of uncertified devices have been able to download the Flash Player from the Google Play Store and in most cases it worked". However, Adobe made some important changes now and says that "with Android 4.1 this is no longer going to be the case, as we have not continued developing and testing Flash Player for this new version of Android and its available browser options". This results in a pretty tough cut and Adobe unveiled that there will be no certified implementations of Flash Player for Android 4.1.
Furthermore, beginning August 15th, Adobe will use the configuration settings in the Google Play Store to limit continued access to Flash Player updates to only those devices that have Flash Player already installed. Devices that do not have Flash Player already installed are increasingly likely to be incompatible with Flash Player and will no longer be able to install it from the Google Play Store after August 15th!
Adobe suggests, that the easiest way to ensure ongoing access to Flash Player on Android 4.0 or earlier devices is to use certified devices and ensure that the Flash Player is either pre-installed by the manufacturer or installed from Google Play Store before August 15th. Adobe also notices that, "if a device is upgraded from Android 4.0 to Android 4.1, the current version of Flash Player may exhibit unpredictable behavior, as it is not certified for use with Android 4.1". Definitely a behavior I can't confirm since I've installed Adobe Flash on an Android 4.1 upgraded Samsung Galaxy Nexus yesterday and tested it extensively. However, Adobe made it pretty clear that "future updates to Flash Player will not work" and therefore recommends We recommend uninstalling Flash Player on devices which have been upgraded to Android 4.1.
I have mixed emotions about this hard cut. On one hand I see the reason why Adobe is going this way, on the other hand I think it's way to early to cut-off mobile devices from a yet still Flash based web. Not as long other technologies are in place and widely adopted. Just look at the advertising industry. It relies very much on Flash and I haven't seen HTML5 banners so far. Such a cute means, mobile users will either see static banners or animated GIFs in future. Devices which have quad-core capabilities are treated like the earliest WAP phone from 2000.
To make sure you have access to your Flash installation in future, it's strongly recommended to backup your current Flash installation, for example with free "App Backup & Restore" and putting the APK file on Dropbox from where it is available from every device.
Cheers ~ Arne