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Flash Player gets multi-touch, graphics acceleration

Nov 17, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Adobe released upgrades to its multimedia software that pave the way for full mobile device support. The company's “pre-release betas” of Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2 run only on Linux, Windows, and Macintosh desktop operating systems and x86-based netbooks, but showcase mobile-centric features such as multi-touch and H.264 hardware acceleration.

Adobe says its Flash Player 10.1 will "enable uncompromised Web browsing of expressive applications, content and high definition (HD) videos across devices." A year ago, the company promised a "desktop-class" implementation of Flash for mobile devices; last month, it provided further specifics by adding that Flash Player 10.1 betas would appear for Windows Mobile and Palm's WebOS by the end of this year, for Android and Symbian operating systems by early 2010, and for RIM BlackBerry devices at an unnamed future date.

Today's pre-release betas do not directly concern smartphones, but Flash nonetheless appears to have jumped a significant hurdle in its race toward mobile and low-power embedded devices. According to Adobe, the betas of Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 — an implementation of the same core technology that can run "beyond the constraints of the browser" — now support hardware decoding of H.264 video. As a result, netbooks, nettops, and other devices that previously struggled with Flash can now provide "exceptional video playback," according to the company.

Of course, hardware video acceleration works on supported GPUs (graphics processing units) only. Adobe has reportedly baked in support for Nvidia's GeForce 8, 9, and GTS/GTX video cards as well as its Ion chipset, while compatible ATI cards are said to include ATI's Radeon HD 3000, 5700, and 5800 series, among others.

"Awesome improvements"

The AnandTech website's Anand Shimpi tested the Flash Player 10.1 beta on an Intel Atom 330-based system with an Ion chipset, and cites "awesome improvements." According to Shimpi, CPU utilization dropped from 70 percent to 30 percent when playing an episode of The Office on, while 720p playback of a Price of Persia trailer on YouTube went from 60 percent utilization to just 12 percent.

The Flash Player 10.1 beta — which currently runs on Linux, Windows, and Intel-based Macintosh systems — is also said to include multi-touch, with support for native gestures such as pinch, scroll, rotate, scale, and two-finger tap. Offering available microphone input, Flash also supports a new HTTP streaming format, with optional content protection via Adobe's Flash Access 2.0 technology, the company says.

Mobile-centric features promised for the future, but not yet present in today's beta, include virtual keyboard support, "optimized SWF management" that includes pausing when a phone call is received, an adaptive frame rate feature, and support for sleep mode, according to Adobe. Meanwhile, AIR 2.0 is now said to include not only the Flash enhancements already mentioned, but also a variety of other improvements. For example, Adobe says, AIR 2.0 can detect when mass storage devices are connected, support peer-to-peer networking, and perform operations such as starting an email client using native process APIs (application programming interfaces).

David Wadhwani, GM and VP of Adobe's platform business unit, stated, "With the beta availability of Adobe AIR 2 and Flash Player 10.1 today, we are taking an important step toward realizing the Open Screen Project vision to enable rich Internet experiences across any device, anywhere. Content creators will provide multi-screen experiences with uncompromised Web browsing and standalone applications across desktops and netbooks, and in the near future across a wide range of mobile devices."

Flash Lite

When it arrives for smartphones, Flash 10 will apparently require an ARM11 or Cortex-A processor to run. However, Adobe also continues to offer Flash Lite, a mobile version of the Flash Player that's said to support .FLV video and .SWF vector graphics formats, and to run on hardware as modest as a 200MHz ARM9 processor. More than one billion devices now feature Flash Lite, according to Adobe.

The Flash Player 10.1 beta running on Palm's WebOS-based Pre

Source: Adobe (clock to play)

iPhone support

As noted in our past coverage, Adobe has been unable to say when its Flash Player will become available on Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch devices. "The Apple iPhone SDK license terms do not allow runtime interpreted code, so Adobe is not able to deliver Flash Player in Safari on the iPhone without support from Apple," Adobe stated in October.

However, Adobe added, it will soon be possible to use a version of the company's Flash Professional CS5 authoring tool to create stand-alone iPhone/iPod Touch applications using Flash. Developers will be able to take the same code that would run in the Flash Player or AIR, and export it as a compiled iPhone app at the push of a button, the company promised. 


Adobe's "pre-release betas" of Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 are available from the company's website, here and here, respectively.

General information on the Flash platform may be found on the company's website, here.

The AnandTech test of Flash Player 10.1 can be found here.

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