Back in a Flash: With Flip-Flop, Microsoft Now Supports Adobe in Windows 8, Windows RT Browser
Starting with an update due out today, Flash will be much more broadly accessible from Internet Explorer in both Windows 8 and Windows RT — the version of Windows that runs on ARM processors.
When Windows 8 and Windows RT debuted, Microsoft took a cautious approach, allowing full Flash only in the desktop version of Internet Explorer 10, and only for Windows 8, not Windows RT. Flash was allowed in the new-style Windows 8 browser, but only for a limited number of sites white-listed by Microsoft as proving they were both highly used and not buggy.
With the change, Flash content will run by default in all versions of the browser on both operating systems, though some sites that don’t work with touch or have other incompatibilities will be blocked.
In a blog post on Monday, Microsoft attributed the change to the work Adobe had done to improve Flash, and the fact that a growing number of Flash-enabled sites work well on Windows 8, both in terms of performance and battery life.
It’s the latest change of heart for Microsoft, which initially was going to keep Flash out of the new-style browser entirely. (Technically, it only said that the new-style IE would be plugin free, which remains true. When it added Flash support, it did so by building it into the browser, rather than as a plugin. However, Microsoft clearly implied no Flash support, so we’re counting that as another flip-flop.)
It’s understandable that Microsoft would be of mixed mind when it comes to how and when to support Flash in Windows, particularly in Windows RT, which is designed to eliminate a lot of the old Windows legacy and runs on mobile-centric ARM processors.
On one hand, much of the Web still runs on the Adobe plugin, and maintaining support offers both a ton of compatibility and a way to stand out from Apple’s iOS, which offers essentially no Flash support. And there’s no question that Windows 8 could use some additional selling points, as machines haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves.
On the other hand, Flash is often the culprit for crashes, and can be a big battery drain. And performance on mobile devices has also left a lot to be desired.
Microsoft isn’t the first to run into this issue. For some time there was a version of Flash for Android, but it never worked all that well, and Adobe scrapped the effort in 2011.