[Adobe MAX 2009] Flash Player 10.1: The web had it coming

There has been a lot of speculation about the upcoming Flash Player for mobiles, with Adobe having promised more details and even a beta this year. The time for deliverance has come!

By Kshitij Sobti | Published 05 Oct 2009 15:21 IST
[Adobe MAX 2009] Flash Player 10.1: The web had it coming
[Adobe MAX 2009] Flash Player 10.1: The web had it coming

There has been a lot of speculation about the upcoming Flash Player for mobiles, with Adobe having promised more details and even a beta this year. The time for deliverance has come!

Adobe has now released details of its upcoming Flash Player 10.1 which adds some much requested features to the player, and finally introduces the full Adobe Flash player to the mobile domain.

Here are five of the hottest new details about the new Flash Player 10.1:

  1. Diverse platform support: Adobe Flash player 10.1 will work on almost all smartphones, with support for Microsoft Windows Mobile, Android, Palm webOS, and Symbian S60.
  2. Multi-touch support: Multi-touch is the way of the future, and Flash Player 10.1 will expose new APIs which allow better support for multitouch input and gestures.
  3. Hardware acceleration on mobiles:Mobiles with their limited memory and slow CPU have perhaps the most to gain from GPU accelerated content.
  4. Video hardware decoding: Smooth playback of full screen HD video on Flash Player, isn't that enough!
  5. Streaming enhancements: Flash player made web video suck less. With most video sharing websites using Flash for video, any upgrades for Flash player video capability are likely to be well received.

For the developers the Flash Player now includes a Global Error handler, allowing future Flash apps throw better, easier to understand, and context-relevant error messages; and it also supports better globalization options, allowing developers to respect user-set options for currency and number formatting conventions, etc. 

However one of the coolest and most anticipated feature of the new Flash Player 10.1 has to be its platform support. Thanks to the Open Screen project, with the aim to have Flash running on nearly every device with a screen and internet access, we will now see a full-featured Flash Player 10.1 running on almost all smartphones: Android, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Palm webOS, and Symbian S60 -- bringing it to nearly every smartphone in the market except the iPhone, which will require Apple's blessing and support before becoming a reality,

The Flash player has been heavily optimized for this purpose, and with 10.1 come many features and enhancements which make it more suitable as a mobile runtime:

  • Support for a device's native text input mechanism. Flash player for the mobile will now manage the display of the phone's virtual keyboard, if no physical one is present.
  • Support for multi-touch capable devices. Still in short supply, but multi-touch is the way of the future. This feature will also work with multi-touch displays on Windows 7.
  • Accelerometer input support. Most smartphones now come with accelerometers. Under 10.1, Flash applications will be able to query the accelerometer inputs and create even more interactive and innovative applications.

The above mentioned features are not only applicable to mobile phones, but also newly emerging personal computer devices which have support for these features. With Tablet PCs and netbooks, there will soon be quite a few touch-only computing devices which support multitouch and have accelerometers. Some of the mobile-only features of 10.1 are:

  • Screen orientation detection. Most smartphones today will detect the orientation of the device, and switch between landscape and portrait mode, and now flash applications can detect these changes and take an appropriate response.
  • Optimized SWFs for mobile. Mobiles have much more constrained resources than computers, and Flash content needs to be managed differently in them. Flash Player 10.1 will manage loading and unloading multiple Flash items on a page based on user set priority using a new parameter, and visibility of content.
  • Sleep mode. Flash player for mobiles will automatically slow down content when the device enters sleep mode.
  • Graphics hardware acceleration. Now hardware acceleration for Flash vector drawing can be hardware accelerated even on mobile devices with a GPU!
  • Adaptive frame rate. Flash player will now adaptively control the frame rate of content to have better CPU control on mobile devices

Besides the many new mobile device features, the there are plenty desktop enhancements too:

  • Video hardware decoding. This much was leaked a little earlier. Flash player will now be able to use hardware acceleration for decoding video content, meaning that playing HD video on the Flash player will be smoother and have lesser CPU usage.
  • Browser Privacy mode support. With almost all browsers now supporting a privacy mode, there has been concern that content loaded by the Flash player is still cached and retained, thereby nullifying the very point of private browsing. The coming Flash player version will now respect the browser's privacy setting.
  • Out-of-memory management. Flash content can be huge and memory hogging, and can lead to a browser crash in case the system runs out of memory. In Flash Player 10.1, if the memory usage quote is exceeded, the the Flash Player will itself shut down the content, and prevent the browser from crashing. It will also give the user the option to restart the content.
  • Content protection. With the release of Flash Access 2.0 SDK, content creators will be able to support more models for their content, such as resting, video-on-demand etc.
  • P2P. Using the new Stratus library by Adobe, Flash content will be able to create P2P applications.
  • Streaming enhancements. Video streaming is one of the most popular uses of the Flash player on the internet today and each version of Flash player continues to enhance it. Flash 10.1 will now have some great new features for streaming Flash content such as HTTP Streaming, Smart reconnect (continue playback of video content even in case of network disruption), Smart seek (allow rewinding and forwarding through video content with optimum bandwidth usage), Buffered stream catchup, and Dynamic streaming enhancements (improved video performance on fluctuating networks)
  • Direct microphone access. The sound system on Flash player continues to improve, and now developers will have access directly to the raw data coming from the microphone on a computer.

Despite being just a .1 release, Flash player 10.1 has much to offer to application developers and consumers alike.

Kshitij Sobti
Kshitij Sobti

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