Susanne from Sydney, Australia writes:
Recently I purchased an Android tablet. When trying to open emails, most of them required Adobe flash. This tablet was a Google based operating system and wouldn’t download Adobe flash. Do all Android tablets operate the same way? Luckily I was able to return it. The tablet was from Aldi stores. It is wonderful to get some expert advice!
In short, yes, this is true for all recent Android tablets. If you buy a tablet that runs version Android 4.1 or later, then you will not have native access to anything that needs the Adobe Flash Player to run. This is because Adobe stopped developing Flash for mobile devices in November 2011. Back then, devices that did run Flash continued to work, and they had some limited updates and bug fixes from Adobe, but even that has since expired, and the Adobe Flash Player is now a thing of the past on Android tablets.
Why did this happen? Many would argue that it all started with Apple. Steve Jobs was vehemently opposed to using Flash on Apple’s iPhones and iPads. In April 2010, he wrote an open letter to Adobe entitled Thoughts on Flash. In it, he outlined all the reasons why he thought Flash would be detrimental to their iOS devices. Jobs said:
“Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short…New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too).”
This was not necessarily a popular opinion at the time, but he had a point, and it would later prove to be the beginning of the end because he was right. The Internet was changing. More and more website developers were using a new web standard called HTML5, a universal coding language that worked on all devices without the need for plug-ins like Adobe Flash Player.
Mobile habits were also changing. Tablet owners were becoming more app focused, and less web orientated. They were using the Facebook app more than the Facebook website, largely because it was better optimized for a touch based interface, and was therefore easier to use.
Lastly, there was the issue of fragmentation. There were just too many different hardware manufacturers that each offered a slightly different version of Android. This made it increasingly time consuming for Adobe to try and support all these different operating systems. So in many ways, it was also a business decision to stop developing Flash for Android tablets.
However, it is not all bad news for Adobe. They have taken many of the same technologies associated with the Adobe Flash Player and packaged them up into another product called Adobe AIR. With Adobe AIR, developers can take their existing Flash-based products and use this newer technology to build native apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
And if you REALLY want to access Flash content on your Android tablet, you still have the option of using an app like the Puffin Web Browser. This app uses some workarounds to get Flash content to display on your tablet, but it does work, and there are other apps like it that do very much the same thing. Videos often work better than games, but some in-app extras like a virtual mouse or game pad will help when you feel the urge for online gaming.
So, although many websites still use Flash to display their multimedia content, more and more are looking at HTML5 or dedicated apps to help deliver their services on mobile devices. The desktop version of Adobe Flash Player isn’t going anywhere yet, but its days on this earth could well be numbered.