How Adobe Predicted Flash’s Future Wrong

Before Adobe Flash for mobile was killed a few days ago, in 2006, Neha Tiwari who used to work for CNET, interviewed Adobe Systems’ Mike Downey (ex-Senior Product Manger for Flash) regarding Adobe Flash’s future. If you haven’t watched the 4 minute interview, I highly suggest you watch it before reading this post.

HTML5 Flash

Ironically, Mike Downey now works for Microsoft in the Evangelism group. He’s working on Windows 8 and HTML5 now. If we analyze this interview from 2006, we can conclude that not even Adobe was able to predict Flash’s future correctly. Instead, it was Steve Jobs in 2010 who got it right.  It is sad that Adobe couldn’t have made the announcement a month ago, while Steve was around to see it.

Prediction 1:

Neha starts off the interview by asking Mike:

What do you see in the near future for Flash?

Mike responded by saying that he saw Flash being very successful on the web and quickly expanding to other platforms like mobile and car computer systems. He then went on to say that Flash would see a huge explosion among video and mobile.


Five years after the prediction was made, the opposite has occurred. Shocker isn’t it? First of all, instead of Flash, HTML5 has been rapidly adopted among developers and companies for video across the web and on mobile platforms. In fact, ABI Research Data predicts that by 2016, 2.1 billion devices will have HTML5 support. I would even argue that this was partly because of Apple’s stance on HTML5 and refusal to offer Flash on iOS devices. After all, Apple did kill the floppy disk by using a similar method. This is funny because Apple’s iOS devices were considered to be doomed due to the lack of Flash support. Secondly, Adobe was never able to offer a great Flash experience on mobile devices. As The Small Wave’s Tom Reestman rightly said, Adobe always labeled Flash on mobile as coming soonand the performance was always pathetic.  You know what’s even more pathetic? The fact that Google bet on such a crappy technology. How a non-evil company can tolerate to offer a poor user experience to its customers is beyond me. Remember, not evil indeed.

Here’s some food for thought:

Now that Flash for mobile is dead, what exactly is Android’s major selling point going to be? In my opinion, the bottom line is that the average consumer doesn’t care about open, customization, or hardware specs. They just want something that works great.

Prediction 2:

Neha then asked:

How about a decade from now? Where do you see Flash then?

Mike responded by saying that Flash can grow into a wide variety of additional digital interfaces.  He also went on to talk about how Flash would excel on mobile devices.


Reality check? See what I did there? HA! I think Neha threw a googly there. Five years after, Flash is on its deathbed and Adobe is pivoting as an entire company. There’s not much more to analyze here…

Prediction 3:

Neha concludes the interview by asking a question that made me laugh. In fact, I’m going to be grinning the entire time while I type the next few paragraphs.

On YouTube, where do you think sites that like are going?

Mike responded by saying that video sites like these type of sites were headed towards a click on the play button and video just starts playingtype of site and that Flash is the only thing that can allow this to happen.


If Flash had allowed this to happen, then that would explain why Google created an awesome UI out of HTML5 for iOS device owners, right? In addition, although while at the time of the interview Flash was indeed the king of video, Downey over-confidently underestimated how quickly a new, disruptive technology could come along and completely reshape the landscape of an industry, as we know it. HTML5 — mind you, a technology that he is now involved with in his new role at Microsoft — is quickly emerging to become the preferred standard over Flash.

Funnily enough, at this part near the end of the interview, he used the word “pervasive” to describe Flash.

Dictionary definition: (esp. of an unwelcome influence or physical effect) Spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people)

Sounds about right. Yes, Flash was popular, and it spread widely throughout an area or a group of people, but the same can be said of odors and disease.


Last year, Steve Jobs wrote a letter titled Thoughts on Flash, which people thought was a gimmick at that time. If we look back at it now, that letter nailed it. In fact, Adobe didn’t kill Flash, they just reassured it. It was Apple who killed Flash. Since the introduction of the first iPhone, Apple hasn’t allowed Flash on its devices, and their effort paid off. For a company that’s been declared doomedmany times, they have been more disruptive than ever. The death of Flash doesn’t benefit just Apple, but instead it benefits everyone.