Playing with Adobe's new toys

This just in: Adobe Labs has some new toys up for grabs. As part of Adobe's poorly-named Open Screen Initiative to put Flash on every popular platform known to mankind, Adobe has released beta versions of Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Flash Player 10.1 doesn't appear to do much, if anything, for Mac OS X, but a thorough look at the release notes (written in PDF format, naturally) reveals some interesting details. This is an Intel-only pre-release, although it appears there will be support for PowerPC in the final build. It does feature support for audio input, likely to act as a bridge for Flash 10.1 Web apps tailored for mobile phone users. For fans of smarter error handling, Flash is now able to shut itself down and ask the browser to restart if it runs out of memory, which is a very dandy improvement over simply crashing.

As for what isn't in the Mac OS X version, we're primarily missing out on support for GPU acceleration, multi-touch, and gestures. Adobe's reasoning for only supporting GPU-based rendering on smartphones is that it "decreases performance [in some cases]" and "driver support varies wildly," even though Mac OS X has supported native GPU-compositing ever since it introduced Quartz Extreme in Mac OS X 10.2.

There's also no support for H.264 hardware acceleration on anything but Windows, because "Mac OS X does not expose access to the required APIs," but to keep torches and pitchforks at bay, Adobe is pressing on to "evaluate adding the feature." While the release notes don't specifically say anything about multi-touch being a Windows 7- and smartphone-exclusive affair, none of the available demos currently support Mac OS X, which bodes ill for that as well.

AIR 2.0 is also an Intel-only release but, unlike Flash Player 10.1, Adobe intends for it to stay that way. Fortunately, there's much more new stuff in the OS X version of AIR 2.0 than there is for Flash. There's now support for HTML5 and CSS3, thanks to the newly-updated version of WebKit in AIR 2.0.

Most intriguing is that developers can now create an AIR app that installs through a native installer, which presents the ability to use OS-specific native APIs and features. For instance, Adobe Labs has a sample AIR app to download called SearchCentral that demonstrates how AIR supports Spotlight in this manner. AIR 2.0 also boasts support for vector printing on Mac OS X, improved security, the ability to open a file with the OS's default application, detection of mass storage devices like flash drives and hard drives, and advanced networking support.

While I'm sure nobody's in a hurry to download a less stable version of Flash, the improvements to AIR show that Adobe's certainly interested in taking advantage of some OS X features. Regardless, I can't wait for HTML5 to really catch on so that we don't have to waste any more time dealing with unstable plug-ins. Sorry, Adobe. Hugs and kisses?

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