Adobe has made the first public beta of Flash Player 11 available, bringing new 3D functionality and improved performance on 64-bit platforms to those who don't buy into the 'Flash is dead' mindset.
The latest version of the company's rich media player comes with full support for both 64-bit and 32-bit browsers, building on the work that Adobe did with its Square Player alpha code. As a result, it should work fine on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems where a 64-bit browser has been installed.
The main feature of Flash Player 11 - aside from the long-awaited 64-bit support - is 'Molehill,' the first trial of a set of application programming interfaces called Stage3D. Designed to provide low-level graphics acceleration, they provide the framework for Flash developers to get more creative with 3D animation while also providing a welcome boost to 2D playback on selected platforms.
Flash Player 11 also adds support for encoding video into H.264 and audio into G.711, which should mean higher-quality and lower-bandwidth video chatting, while bezier curves can be created without custom Actionscripts, JSON is now supported, and vector printing is now included across all platforms. Interestingly, Adobe has also included a new and more secure random number generator, suggesting that it's concentrating more on secure-by-design coding than has previously been the case.
During our testing, we found performance to be slightly improved over the Square alpha that we had previously installed. A framerate-crippling full-screen bug on Linux that we'd encountered appears to be a thing of the past, too.
The Flash Player 11 beta comes at the same time as a public beta of Adobe Air 3, which offers the same technology found in Flash in an offline format. Sadly for those waiting for a 64-bit Air build for Linux, only Mac OS X and Windows are currently supported.