Adobe's Flash technology is highly prevalent on the internet both in terms of site content and online advertising. Video is powered by Flash on a number of sites large and small including Hulu where millions go to watch their favorite TV shows.
Adobe has announced today that a new update is available as a beta called Flash Player 10.1. The update is notable because it adds GPU acceleration features to the Flash Player allowing the acceleration of video to be offloaded from the CPU. High resolution flash video processing is traditionally very CPU intensive meaning that playback at sites like Hulu is typically choppy no matter how fast your computer runs.
Flash Player 10.1 is the first consistent browser runtime release of the Open Screen Project. The new version promises to enable uncompressed web browsing of application and HD videos across desktops and devices like smartphones and tablets. Adobe reports that the new player version delivers media using HTTP streaming with content protection powered by Adobe Flash Access 2.0.
The key upgrade for Flash 10.1 is that the player can now use hardware decoding of H.264 video on Windows PCs, notebooks, and mobile devices. The new version of Flash Player also supports Mac and Linux. Adobe has also issued a new update for AIR to AIR 2 that allows developers to create feature rich applications in the desktop context.
“With the beta availability of Adobe AIR 2 and Flash Player 10.1 today, we are taking an important step toward realizing the Open Screen Project vision to enable rich Internet experiences across any device, anywhere,” said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president, Platform Business Unit at Adobe. “Content creators will provide multi-screen experiences with uncompromised Web browsing and standalone applications across desktops and netbooks, and in the near future across a wide range of mobile devices.”
The hardware video acceleration feature works on supported GPUs only. Supported GPUs include the NVIDIA Ion chipset, ATI Radeon HD 4000, 5700, and 5800 series video cards. ATI Mobility HD 4000 series and HD 3000 are supported along with several ATI FirePro video cards. Video cards from the NVIDIA GeForce 8, 9 or GTS/GTX series are supported as well with the exception of the NVIDIA G80 cards including the 8800 GTX and GTS.
AnandTech tested out the beta Flash Player 10.1 and reports that Hulu playback on ION is nearly perfect. The publication found that CPU utilization dropped significantly with the new Flash Player. Utilization while watching an episode of The Office called “Murder” dropped from 70% with Flash 10.0.32.18 to 30% with Flash 10.1.51.45.
The AnandTech test article stated, "These are awesome improvements. The Hulu HD results were a bit high but the YouTube HD test showed a drop from 60% CPU utilization down to 12%. Most impressive."
If you use Firefox, you will have to jump through a few more hoops to use the new version of Flash Player. The AnandTech story reports, "Before running a YouTube HD clip, please go to Firefox menus and select Tools/Clear Recent History. Ensure the Cookies checkbox is checked, and do the clear. Next, go to Tools/Options/Privacy and select Never Remember History."