Flash: I’m not dead yet!

My last post generated a fair bit of discussion around the true fate of Flash within Adobe. The original announcement from Adobe and the associated staff reductions had caused a lot of speculation within the Flash community. I should clarify some of my statements, especially the parts about the Flash Pro authoring tool and Flash Player.

All software follows a similar life cycle from 1.0 to a final version when it effectively becomes frozen in time. I didn’t mean to imply that Adobe is pulling Flash Pro from store shelves like salmonella-tainted spinach. A familiar pattern is to move software engineering to a low-cost geography like India or China as growth slows. This is not a bad thing, and actually lets the software have a long tail of maintenance and incremental feature work at a cost that allows it. The consumer can still count on that software being available for some time with support (usually from the same low-cost geography.) A handful of engineers will remain in the original geography to consult the new engineers as the hand-off occurs. The Flash Pro team in the US will have a handful of engineers left behind to manage the hand-off so, technically, the entire team is not getting eliminated at this time. Over time, the idea is to have your higher-cost engineers migrate over to your higher-growth projects. This is what occurred many years ago at Macromedia when Director moved offshore and the team moved over to working on Flash.

Last Tuesday’s announcements did not follow this pattern. Instead of moving the mobile Flash Player to a low-cost geography, it was discontinued outright. Instead of moving many affected Flash Platform engineers to the next high-growth agenda, they’re getting sent home. These events are what prompted me to write my last post as my friends at Adobe were blindsided by the whole affair.

I have a great deal of respect for the Adobe product managers who are trying to contain the damage and reverse the Elop Effect from the original announcement. It does seem like they were not made aware of the Tuesday announcement in advance. I sincerely hope they will be successful at affecting change within Adobe to keep Flash around for a good while longer.

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