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Flash 10.2 arrives with more efficient video


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Adobe Systems released Flash Player 10.2 today, bringing a technology called Stage Video designed to be easier on computing devices' processors and therefore batteries.

Tom Nguyen, product manager for Flash platform runtimes, offered this glowing account for the Flash Player 10.2 announcement:

Stage Video lets websites take advantage of full hardware acceleration of the entire video pipeline...Stage Video hardware acceleration means that Flash Player can play even higher quality video while using dramatically less processing power, giving users a better experience, greater performance, and longer battery life. In our testing across supported systems, we've found it's up to 34 times more efficient.

Put another way, Flash Player using Stage Video can effortlessly play beautiful 1080p HD video with just 1 to 15 percent CPU usage on a common Mac or Windows computer...Many millions of additional PCs, from Netbooks to desktops, can now become slick HD home theaters on the Web.

CPU usage during video has been a particular sore spot with Flash, in particular with Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs lambasting Flash video as battery-sucking software. Stage Video, among other things, uses hardware acceleration to combine ("<a href="http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2010/12/flash-video-gets-dramatically-more-efficient.html">composite," in technical terms) video with other elements such as text or graphics--think subtitles, pop-up ads, and player controls. (Adobe already added hardware-assisted decoding of H.264 video in Flash Player 10.1.)

Web developers need to update their software to use the new Stage Video interface; Flash evangelist Lee Brimelow offers a tutorial for those interested in how to do so. Google already has for its Flash-based player at YouTube, Adobe said.

Speaking of hardware acceleration, Flash Player 10.2 also takes advantage of that ability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 for higher performance and smoother compositing. It also comes with the ability to show full-screen video on one monitor in a dual-monitor setup.

Flash faces a host of challenges beyond power consumption. Also on the list are a variety of competing Web standards in varying degrees of maturity and the fact that Flash Player is a rarity on mobile phones.

The Flash Player 10.2 plug-in can be downloaded from Adobe's download site, but things are somewhat different for users of Google's Chrome browser. Google builds Flash Player directly into Chrome and it issued a new stable version 9.0.597.94 and developer version 10.0.648.45 with Flash Player 10.2; the new versions download automatically and are installed upon restarting the browser.

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