Adobe launches Flash Player 10.2 Beta

Adobe has announced a Flash Player 10.2 beta release of for Windows, Mac, and Linux — now available for download on Adobe Labs.

Flash Player 10.2 beta introduces several enhancements including a new API that delivers what Adobe claims is best-in-class, high performance video playback across platforms. The new beta also includes Internet Explorer 9 hardware acceleration support and responding to popular requests from the user community: a native custom mouse cursors API and support for full screen playback with multiple monitors.

Stage Video in Flash Player 10.2 beta will help websites deliver smooth, high-quality HD video across devices and browsers by enabling access to hardware acceleration of the entire video pipeline.

Adobe Flash Platform Runtimes Product Manager Tom Nguyen says that working together with hardware vendors has helped Adobe's engineers to take advantage of the GPU to offload not only H.264 hardware decoding (introduced in Flash Player 10.1) but the rest of the video rendering pipeline, including color conversion, and scaling and that Stage Video hardware acceleration in Flash Player 10.2 beta enables playing smooth 1080p HD video in laptops with just over 0% CPU usage.

Because Stage Video works across browsers, when the final shipping version of Flash Player 10.2 is released, users will benefit from Stage Video accelerated content with a simple Flash Player update. Adobe will also be introducing Stage Video across devices. Google TV already takes advantage of Stage Video in Flash Player to deliver 1080p HD video playback on TVs.

For content providers, Stage Video will work with all of the existing video viewed in Flash Player once they utilize the new API in their video player SWFs. This means their websites will continue to benefit from Flash Player’s advanced streaming for smooth, higher quality playback, DVR-like playback control, content protection, and consistency, with no changes to their encoded videos or infrastructure.

In addition to enhanced video playback, Flash Player 10.2 beta includes Internet Explorer 9 GPU support which Adobe says in testing has yielded up to 35% improvement in rendering performance with that browser.

Other features are less about big numbers but rather small touches that make user experiences better. Flash Player has long allowed viewers to enjoy true full screen playback with one click, but with Flash Player 10.2 beta, users with multiple monitors will be able to watch videos in true full screen on one display while multi-tasking on another (by popular demand). Another popular request from designers and developers has been support for native custom mouse cursors, and the new API allows developers to create their own cursors, static or animated, and ask the native OS to render them rather than use resources to manually draw custom cursors. This opens up new creative possibilities and can improve responsiveness in games, applications, and other content. Finally, the Flash Player 10.2 beta release also includes new sub-pixel text rendering enhancements that leverage Adobe typography research to further enhance readability of text in Flash Player, especially for complex character-based languages.

Adobe recommends that end-users probably don’t need to download the beta – they'll benefit from Stage Video with the final release of Flash Player 10.2 next year as websites take advantage of it. However, they say they’ve found the beta to be pretty stable and ready for broad testing, albeit not quite fully baked.