Long gone are the days when Adobe Systems could take its Flash Player's position on the Web for granted. But Adobe, to counter a strong combination of opposition and alternatives to the browser plug-in, plans to ship Flash Player 11 in two weeks.
Adobe Fights Back with Flash 11
Flash 11's highlight, an interface called Molehill for hardware-accelerated 3D and 2D graphics, won't change the minds of those who would like to see Flash fade from the Web, nor will it reverse Apple and Microsoft's Flash opposition. But it is a powerful new feature for games, and games are one of the Flash strongholds Adobe is seeking to defend.
"With direct access to the GPU, you'll see a thousand times faster rendering over prior versions of Flash," said Danny Winokur, Adobe's platform general manager. With the ability to animate millions of objects at a screen refresh rate of 50 frames per second, people can expect "console-quality games" such as those on an Xbox or PS3, but in a Web browser.
At the same time, Adobe has another strategy for maintaining the programming appeal of Flash's cross-platform nature. In cases where Flash apps can't run because the plug-in is banned or simply not installed, the new version 3 of Adobe's AIR software lets Flash apps be packaged as standalone apps.
In other words
For situations when developers can't count on Flash being installed, Adobe lets them build it directly into the app. Also new is 64-bit support, which helps Flash stay compatible with browsers moving toward more modern processors.
Detractors might disagree, but Adobe's moves are real. Flash has plenty of experienced programmers, and the plug-in is installed on 98 percent of desktop browsers. It's clear that Flash is not the only way to write apps--heck, even Adobe is embracing the competition--but it's equally clear Flash still has a place for many.