Adobe ships Flash Player 10

Company says it is focusing on building "expressive" applications for the Web.

Adobe Systems is shipping its Adobe Flash Player 10 software this week, featuring built-in 3D capabilities as well as the ability for developers to add their own special effects.

Concurrent with Flash Player 10, Adobe is shipping Adobe Creative Suite (CS) 4, featuring tools for building creative content, the company said. Tools like Photoshop and Illustrator are featured, offering such functionality as vector graphics.

With Flash Player 10, Adobe is focusing on building "expressive" applications for the Web, said Tom Barclay, Adobe senior product marketing manager for Flash Player. Applications can be deployed including online video, rich Internet applications, online games, and other interactive experiences, according to the company.

Built-in support for 3D is featured, as opposed to the third-party support previously offered. Developers can work in 2D and transform 2D objects into the 3D space, Barclay said. Developers also can build their own 3D libraries, he said.

"It's very easy for developers to be able to add 3D," without knowing 3D math, said Barclay.

Version 10 also features the ability to build custom filters and effects via Adobe Pixel Bender technology, which previously was featured in Adobe After Effects CS4 software. Developers can build motion graphics and special effects.

A new text engine in Flash Player 10 offers multilingual text capabilities and flowable text that can be laid out vertically and horizontally. Other major features in version 10 include dynamic streaming for video playback, supporting multiple bit rates, and advanced audio processing, which enables development of applications like music sequencers.

Early impressions of Flash Player 10 were mostly positive.

"Almost every single feature that's in Flash 10 is going to have a direct impact on what we can do with our product," said Mitch Grasso, CEO and co-founder of SlideRocket, which provides presentation software in a SaaS format.

Just about everything in Flash 10 solves a problem or takes SlideRocket to a different level of performance, Grasso said. Pixel Bender offers special effects capabilities, he said. Typography control for layout of text in presentations also is beneficial, he said.

"The performance improvements that they've done for 3D and full-screen effects really help us," said Grasso. "I would have liked to see them go a little further with the hardware acceleration but that's hardly a criticism."

Flash Player competes with Microsoft's new Silverlight technology in the rich Internet application space. While acknowledging he has not had an in-depth look at Silverlight, Grasso did endorse Flash over Microsoft's offering.

"My impression of Silverlight is that it's just not where Flash is yet," Grasso said. It lacks such capabilities as integration with Adobe AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), for running online applications offline, Grasso said.

An Adobe partner, EffectiveUI, is leveraging Flash Player 10 in an application for Intelligence Gaming that provides training for soldiers via a head-mounted display offering 360-degree video, said Anthony Franco, president of EffectiveUI. The 360-degree video is very high-resolution, Franco said. "Flash Player [previously] couldn't handle the resolution of video that we needed this application to do," said Franco. Also enabled with version 10 is high-powered, 360-degree audio, he added.

Flash applications can be built using Adobe's open source Flex framework or with CS4. A key feature in CS4 is simplified workflow for designing across media. Visual performance improvements in Flash Player 10 are leveraged in the suite.

Users of Flash CS4 can apply tweens to objects instead of keyframes, offering greater control over animation attributes. A new Bones tool in Flash CS4 helps build more realistic animations between linked objects. A content-aware scaling tool in Photoshop CS4 recomposes an image as it is resized, preserving vital areas as it is resized, Adobe said.

Flash Player 10 will be offered as a free download on Adobe's Web site.

Innovations in Flash Player 10 will contribute to the Adobe Open Screen Project, such as work to bring Flash Player 10 to mobile devices, Adobe said. The Open Screen Project is an industry effort to provide rich, multi-screen experiences across PCs, devices, and consumer electronics.

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