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InfoQ Homepage News HTML5 vs. Flash: Where does Adobe Stand?

HTML5 vs. Flash: Where does Adobe Stand?

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In the last year Adobe seems to be embracing HTML5 and integrating it into its product strategy. During the Adobe developer’s conference (MAX), Lee Brimelow tried to clarify his company’s plans for HTML5 and especially regarding competing platforms like Flash and Flex.

Adobe Illustrator, one of the company’s flagship products recently got an HTML5 add-on. This add-on provides basic support for HTML5 and CSS3, extends SVG capability and helps developers design both web and device content:

The HTML5 Pack for Illustrator provides features that enable users to take advantage of the latest developments in HTML5, CSS3, SVG and Canvas for easy multi-screen authoring. The SVG and Canvas enhancements also simplify interactive web content development. … Users can also create web widgets with Illustrator by generating dynamic vector art for data-driven web workflows, and map artwork appearance attributes from designer to developer tools by exporting from the Illustrator Appearance Panel to CSS3 for streamlined styling of web pages.

At the same time Dreamweaver CS5 got HTML5 support, initially with an add-on and later on as part of update 11.0.3. This update brought native support for the new HTML5 structural elements and many of the CSS3 properties supported by the latest browsers. One more feature of the update is the Multiscreen Preview panel, which shows what your page looks like in devices with three different screen resolutions, such as a desktop, tablet device, and mobile phone. The Multiscreen Preview panel allows you to attach different style sheets to target each device using CSS3 media queries, so the same page is rendered in the most appropriate way for each audience.

Also as InfoQ has reported, during Adobe MAX, the company previewed an IDE for HTML5 animation. The IDE, codenamed Edge, uses the WebKit rendering engine to preview animations and like Dreamweaver, offers a source code editing mode. The Edge UI follows the same principles as the other Adobe tools, so it will be familiar to Flash developers. Under the hood, Edge uses jQuery and CSS to manage transitions and from the demoed example, Edge also seems to be using jQuery UI and the jQuery Easing plugin.

During Adobe MAX, Platform Evangelist Lee Brimelow made an hour-long presentation which reveals a lot about how his company perceives HTML5 and its relation to Flash and Flex.

Lee started of by explaining Adobe’s position on the debate with Apple. He said that when the iPhone came out without support for Flash, it wasn’t a big deal and he could understand some of the arguments for this choice, but the release of  the iPad without Flash was a big disappointment. It was also a realization that “there was a motive for that”. Speaking for himself, Lee also made it clear how disappointing it was when the new iPhone licensing agreement came out with version 3.3.1, that didn’t allow for 3rd party development tools. This was actually announced the weekend before Adobe was to release CS5, which featured Flash to iPhone export capabilities. During this part of his presentation, Lee mentioned that “HTML5 is not meant to be a competitor or replacement to Flash.  …Everything you can do by using standards in the browser, if you need to go beyond that, that’s what Flash is for”.

According to Lee “HTML is the foundation of the Web, so you can’t be against it”, but it’s still too early for HTML5 since “60% of user can’t view HTML5 content”. He continued to provide several arguments that revolved around the main idea of HTML5 not being widely available, according to browser market share data.

After enumerating several things that are often mistakenly referred to as HTML5 and giving his own definition, Lee stated that Adobe is heavily investing in HTML5 tooling and urged developers to learn HTML5 since web development skills are essential, even for Flash developers.

With respect to video delivery, which is still a Flash stronghold, Lee suggested that if you need to have the widest possible audience today you have to provide both Flash and HTML5 video. He specifically mentioned the iPhone and the iPad, but also all the other mobile phone platforms that don’t have Flash support yet. Having said that, he stated that he firmly believes that “Flash does better video”, both with respect to features and quality, so it should not only be a sensible fall-back mechanism for video delivery, but actually the preferred one.

Lee finished by explaining Adobe’s vision about the Mobile Web and how Flash should be an integral part of a mobile platform, although it should be used cautiously since it’s still not ubiquitous and existing Flash desktop content might not be well suited for mobile devices. He also suggested that AIR is the right choice for a certain type of applications and many times you’ll have to pursue a native application, depending on the features you require.

It’s this reporter’s opinion, that by looking at Adobe’s latest moves and what Lee Brimelow stated during Adobe MAX, we should be expecting a wider involvement of his company with HTML5 and an increased support for this standard in its product line. It seems that Adobe wishes for Flash to be a complementary solution to HTML5 and especially focus on areas like video and mobile where there are valid use cases where its platform outshines standards-based solutions.

You can find more information on HTML5 right here on InfoQ or join us in QCon London 2010 where there will be a whole track dedicated to the HTML5 Platform.

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