Can Flash be saved?

UPDATE: for a good counterpoint to this blog, see my new post titled “Google +will+ save Flash.”

Let’s go back a few years to when Firefox was just coming on the scene. Remember that? I remember that it didn’t work with a ton of websites. Things like banks, ecommerce sites, and others. Why not? Because those sites were coded specifically for the dominant Internet Explorer back then.

Some people thought Firefox was going to fail because of these broken links. Just like Adobe is trying to say that Apple’s iPad is going to fail because of its own set of broken links.

But just a few years later and have you seen a site that doesn’t work on Firefox? I haven’t.

What happened? Firefox FORCED developers to get on board with the standards-based web.

The same thing is happening now, based on my talks with developers: they are not including Flash in their future web plans any longer.

This has Adobe freaked out. Big time.

So, can Adobe save Flash? No.

But Google can.

The thing is, does Google want to? Google has been positioning itself as a company that supports the open web. It doesn’t like opaque boxes that aren’t friendly to the web. Google has been putting a lot of support behind HTML 5, for instance, and just a couple of weeks ago added support for HTML 5 to YouTube, which takes away a big chunk of Adobe’s argument (I bet Hulu and other players will soon jump onto the HTML 5 bandwagon, or, at minimum, will support the iPad/iPhone video streaming technologies. Even has an iPhone app now that works fine with streaming video).

Google is widely seen as the only company right now that is challenging Apple at all (and even then, Google’s Android is clearly #2 in the race and doesn’t look like it will be able to challenge iPhone/iPad this year). After playing a bunch of great games on the iPhone, I don’t agree with the claims that Flash is needed anymore. If Adobe is losing people like me and the developers that decide the future of the web, they are in big trouble.

Could Nokia help Adobe out? No. The web elite don’t have Nokia phones and don’t care about Nokia.

Could Microsoft help Adobe out? Well, unless the Xbox all of a sudden supported Flash in some major and cool way, I don’t see Microsoft support mattering at all to the Web elite. And Microsoft is pushing its own Flash copy, Silverlight, which NBC is using for the Winter Olympics and RedBull is using for its Stratos event (it is expecting five million to watch a guy skyjump from 120,000 feet for the world record).

Could RIM help Adobe out? No, because its customers can’t use the web browser so it won’t be able to convince developers or consumers that it is a web leader.

Is there some way for Adobe to convince Apple that Flash matters? No. Adobe had three years to do that and has failed. That said, Adobe has invited press to its headquarters in the next few weeks to see its new platform and my friends who are using it say it’s pretty nice. Uses very little memory and is friendly on batteries.

So, Adobe’s best hope is to get Android to support Flash and Adobe’s best hope is that developers ignore the iPad and ignore the iPhone, or, at least, build better experiences on the Android and Google Chrome platforms that include Flash.

Well, it has one other thing it could do: it could come out with a set of developer tools that lets you build apps for the iPhone and iPad but that also let you deploy even better features to Android and other platforms.

The thing is, I bet those broken links start disappearing by summertime, so Adobe’s window to keep Flash relevant is closing quickly.

How about you? Can Flash be saved?

Adobe better have a great story to tell at SXSWi, because that’s where a lot of the Web elite gather each year. That means Adobe has six weeks to get an answer together for why Flash is relevant.

Can it do it? Can Flash be saved?