In a surprising change of pace, Microsoft revealed that it is integrating flash support into the Metro version of IE 10, the latest version of its omnipresent browser.
Two years ago, with the advent of HTML5, Microsoft proudly declared the Age of Flash to be over, claiming that the future of video on the Internet would be HTML5 integrated video. That prediction seems to have been a bit premature, as a majority of video content on the web today is still delivered by Adobe’s Flash technology. Despite this, the general assumption has been that Microsoft would be pursuing web-standard technologies alone with Internet Explorer 10. Metro, the new UI standard adopted by Microsoft for Windows 8, doesn’t allow IE 10 users to expand its capabilities with add-ons, unlike any other browser on the market. In restricting IE like this, Microsoft is planning to provide a unified, seamless UI to the end-user.
In a surprising move, however, Microsoft has revealed that they will be integrating Flash directly into IE 10. They are reportedly doing this in a way that will not undermine the safety or reliability of the Metro UI environment (although history has shown again and again that there is no such thing as a perfectly secure environment).
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft realized that not including flash with IE 10 would be far too restrictive to its users, with a massive amount of online content being delivered by Flash. Interestingly, however, Microsoft was able to add Flash capabilities without contradicting any earlier statements made by the company about standards and Flash with regards to IE. This was made possible by a very close working relationship with Adobe, as noted over two years ago by Microsoft Corporate VP Dean Hachamovitch. “We work closely with engineers at Adobe, sharing information about the issues we know of in ongoing technical discussions,” he said.
Because of their close working relationship, Adobe was able to provide Microsoft with access to the source code of Flash, allowing the software giant to seamless integrate the technology into IE 10. This allowed Microsoft to add Flash capability without compromising their standards for reliability, compatibility, performance, and security, as well as not requiring an exception to the “no add-on” policy for IE Metro.
Microsoft, despite offering Flash capabilities in their newest browser, is still gearing for the end of Flash as it exists today. They realized that removing Flash would cut users off from a vast majority of content on today’s web, but they are clearly positioned to determine what shape the web standards of the future will take.