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Adobe Flash 10 delivers GPU acceleration

Cyril Kowaliski
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After some uncertain beginnings in "multimedia" websites and poorly designed website navigation menus, Adobe Flash has become the de facto platform for streaming video online. Today, eWeek says Adobe has released the next major version of the multimedia plugin. Adobe’s Flash Player 10 is available from this page for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux—including Ubuntu 7 and 8, reportedly.

What’s in store for this new release? eWeek has spoken with Adobe to get the scoop, and it looks like the new plug-in has new GPU-acceleration features (among other new goodies):

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.

We gave the new plug-in a shot, and while we didn’t see a huge difference in CPU usage on a Core 2 Duo E6400, maximizing YouTube videos did feel noticeably snappier. Disabling hardware acceleration through the plug-in settings somehow didn’t affect that, however. After investigating the matter, we found this blog post written on May 16 by Adobe software engineer Tinic Uro. In the post, Uro says web developers actually have to enable GPU acceleration manually in the code. Stranger yet, the new GPU-accelerated modes can supposedly slow down content, because "the software rasterizer in the Flash Player can optimize a lot of cases the GPU cannot optimize." So much for that.

As eWeek points out, this Flash Player release comes hot on the heels of Silverlight 2, which became available on Monday. Microsoft’s latest stab at a Flash competitor introduces .NET Framework support, improved networking, copy protection features, "deep zoom," and more. Microsoft offers Silverlight for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and it claims "one in four consumers worldwide has access to a computer with Silverlight already installed."