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Adobe Aims to Keep Flash Shiny With New Version

Adobe on Wednesday announced its Flash Player 11 and Air 3 packages.

These have a heavy focus on games and online video across multiple devices and platforms. Those platforms include Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry Tablet OS, Mac OS X, Windows and connected TVs.

Flash Player 11 and Air 3 let game publishers deliver console-quality 2D and 3D games over the Internet to PCs and many other devices, Adobe stated.

This “is essentially a way to do 3D games within the Flash environment, which was very difficult to do before,” Lewis Ward, a research manager at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Other new features in Flash Player 11 and Air 3 include digital rights management (DRM) and 1080p HD video capability.

With the trend now for online and wireless media to move away from Flash and toward HTML5, is Adobe going down the wrong path? Could it be scrabbling to survive in the face of the expected HTML5 deluge?

Perhaps the situation isn’t quite that bad.

“The one thing that works well for Adobe is the fact that they’ve got the best Web authoring tools out there, period,” Jim McGregor, a research director at In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld.

Flash has critical mass, so “it’s not going to go down overnight, although we’re definitely in the transition phase of moving from Flash to HTML5,” McGregor said.

The 3D gaming capability could give Flash the edge over HTML5 for now, IDC’s Ward suggested.

Adobe did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

New Features in Flash 11 and Air 3

You have to take Flash and Air as a bundle, because Air is, in Adobe’s own words, a superset of Flash.

Flash Player 11 and Air 3 offer full hardware-accelerated rendering for 2D and 3D graphics through Stage 3D, a new method and model of 2D and 3D rendering.

This makes rendering in Flash Player 11 and Air 3 about 1,000 times faster than in their predecessors, Adobe claimed.

Stage 3D application programming interfaces (APIs) are a set of low-level GPU-accelerated APIs enabling advanced 2D and 3D capabilities across desktops, mobile devices and TVs through Flash platform runtimes.

Adobe has issued a pre-release that brings these accelerated 2D and 3D capabilities to mobile platforms, including Android, Apple iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS. A production release for mobile platforms is in the works.

Another new Air 3 feature set, native extensions, supports thousands of highly optimized open source libraries, allowing for capabilities including access to device data, vibration control, light sensors, dual screens and near field communications (NFC).

The native extensions also let developers integrate Air applications more deeply with business software.

Air 3’s new captive runtime feature lets devs automatically package Air 3 with their apps to simplify installation on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS. It also lets devs manage version updates independently of general Air updates from Adobe.

I Will Survive

An anti-Flash trend appears to be developing in some corners of the tech globe. Apple has banned Flash from iOS, Microsoft is moving away from Flash and toward HTML5 in Windows 8 Metro, and many mobile developers are apparently creating apps in HTML5 instead of Flash.

Even so, Adobe may have scored a big win with its latest announcements.

“Flash is relatively ubiquitous on Facebook and other websites and is used heavily in gaming, and with Stage 3D, formerly code-named ‘Molehill,’ I think Adobe’s trying to build on that momentum,” IDC’s Ward opined.

“That will lower the technical barrier to entry for 3D games and, by the end of this year, we’ll start to see within Flash some of these 3D gaming experiences,” Ward added.

That will give Flash and Air a lead over HTML5.

“I’ve seen 3D games modeled in HTML5, but I’ve yet to see an actual working 3D game in HTML5,” Ward said. “I think it will be a few years before we get an installed base of browsers and game developers who have developed the right stuff in HTML5.”

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