Following directly on the heels of the release of the latest version of its primary competition, Adobe Systems announced the availability of Flash Player 10.
Microsoft announced the impending release of Silverlight 2 on Oct. 13 and then made the technology available on Oct. 14. Then on Oct. 15, Adobe announced the availability of Flash Player 10, the company’s software for creating RIAs (rich Internet applications), interactive content and high quality video to users across multiple browsers and major operating systems. Flash competes directly with Microsoft’s Silverlight.
Tom Barclay, senior product marketing manager, Platform Business Unit, Adobe Systems, said Adobe Flash Player 10 delivers enhancements and new features such as new support for custom filters and effects, native 3-D transformation and animation, advanced audio processing, and GPU hardware acceleration. In addition, the new release builds on Adobe’s expertise with text to deliver a new text engine that provides interactive designers and developers with more text layout options and better creative control.
Barclay said Flash Player 10 is being made available at the same time as Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4), which takes advantage of Flash Player 10 technology.
“We’re providing unprecedented creative control for developers and designers,” with Flash Player 10, Barclay said. In addition, he said the new release is available immediately on Windows, Mac and Linux, including new support for Ubuntu 7 and 8. “Linux is a first-class citizen for us,” he said.
Barclay said users can take advantage of the 3-D capabilities through easy-to-use APIs and with an enhanced drawing API.
“Another major improvement is the ability to create your own effects with Adobe Pixel Bender, which can be applied to content live to do things that up to now could only be done on the desktop,” Barclay said. The Adobe Pixel Bender also features a multi-threaded calculation engine that can be used for other purposes.
Indeed, Adobe Flash Player 10 extends the expressive capabilities of the Adobe Creative Suite 4 product line with new levels of Flash technology integration to streamline collaboration and enhance the design/develop workflow, Adobe officials said.
Users can create custom filters and effects with Adobe Pixel Bender, which is the same technology behind many filters and special effects in Adobe After Effects CS4 software. Developers targeting Adobe Flash Player 10 can use these filters, blend modes and fills to animate effects or change the effect on rich media content at runtime. Flash Player 10 also enables new capabilities and performance improvements in Adobe Flash CS4 Professional. This includes easy-to-use 3-D effects that enable designers to design in 2-D and easily transform and animate in 3-D.
“Our clients expect innovation,” said Tim Barber, partner and creative director for Odopod, a design studio and member of the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA). “With the improved visual performance and awesome new 3-D effects in Adobe Flash Player 10, we can now use Adobe Flash CS4 Professional to create cool Web experiences that were previously impossible. For us, this means fewer boundaries to the creative process.”
Capabilities Not Possible with Silverlight
Flash Player 10 also supports advanced audio processing to deliver improved sound capabilities and leverages the Pixel Bender engine.
Barclay said all the major new features and capabilities in Flash Player 10 “are things that are not possible with Silverlight. We’re delivering capabilities that were only possible on the desktop before now.”
Justin Everett-Church, senior product manager, Platform Business Unit, Adobe Systems, said Adobe opened its doors to “a couple hundred developers” over the weekend before the release of Flash Player 10 and “the new sound capabilities seemed to be a big winner” amongst the group of developers kicking the tires on the platform. “I think it was because sound is an area we had never really provided support for before.”
Barclay said he thinks the Adobe Pixel Bender is among the key new features in the new Flash release, “because you can use the engine for so many different things. I think we’ll see some things that will just blow us away.”
Meanwhile, as part of its Flash development effort, Adobe delivered a Flash Player public bug tracker, which helped the company decide on and accelerate delivery of some of the new features in Flash Player 10. The sound capability was one such feature that benefited from the bug tracker, but other enhancements that came from that bug tracking system include full screen keyboard access, full screen game access and access to the Flash garbage collection engine, Everett-Church said.
Adobe officials said Flash has an adoption rate of about 90 percent across the market; Microsoft claims Silverlight is available on one in four computers that an individual user has access to. Moreover, Flash Player content reaches more than 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktops, Adobe said. More than 80 percent of online videos worldwide are viewed using Adobe Flash technology, making it the No. 1 format for video on the Web, the company said. And adoption of a previous update to Flash Player 9 set records by achieving nearly 90 percent reach on Internet-enabled desktops in less than nine months. Flash Player 10 is expected to achieve a similar adoption rate.
In addition, Adobe will use innovations from Adobe Flash Player 10 to fuel future Open Screen Project efforts, such as work that will bring Flash Player 10 to mobile devices. The Open Screen Project is an industry-wide initiative to deliver rich multi-screen experiences built on a consistent runtime environment for open Web browsing and standalone applications across personal computers, mobile devices and consumer electronics.
Adobe Flash Player 10 is available immediately as a free download for Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms here. Support for Solaris is expected later this year. All of the new expressive features and performance improvements introduced in Adobe Flash Player 10 will be available in Adobe AIR later this year for designers and developers to build applications that run outside the browser.