Adobe has announced Flash Player 11, a significant update for the company’s beleaguered browser plugin. Flash Player 11 will give Flash developers access to an impressive set of hardware-accelerated 3D graphics tools.
Alongside Flash 11 Adobe has also announced version 3 of the Flash-based runtime, Adobe Air.
Flash Player 11 and Air 3 are scheduled for release in early October. Adobe hasn’t set an exact date, but the company’s annual Max conference, which runs October 1-5, seems a safe bet.
Adobe’s Flash browser plugin has taken a beating in the last few years, losing many of its traditional web roles like video or animations to the new features in HTML5. Additionally, the mobile world has not been kind to Flash. You won’t find the plugin on any Apple products, nor will it be part of the upcoming Windows 8 Metro platform.
While there are no doubt many Webmonkey readers who would like to see Flash disappear forever, Adobe continues to push Flash in directions which, so far, HTML5 can’t compete.
For this release that means the world of online 3D graphics rendering. Flash 11 isn’t trying to compete with HTML5 or even reclaim its former strongholds like video (though for streaming DRM video it remains the only real choice). Instead Adobe is going after the burgeoning online gaming market with an impressive new 3D rendering API.
The new Stage 3D rendering in Flash 11, nicknamed Molehill, is a very low level API for fully hardware accelerated 2D and 3D graphics. Adobe claims that Molehill can “efficiently animate millions of objects on screen, smoothly rendered at 60 frames per second.” The end result, according to Adobe, is “console-quality games” in the browser.
Indeed the videos Adobe has released showing off the new Molehill-based graphics are impressive.
Of course one day WebGL may well mean that Flash 11’s 3D performance is possible without the Flash plugin. Unfortunately Internet Explorer still lacks WebGL support and WebGL’s performance varies considerably from browser to browser. For now Flash 11 looks to have the edge in 3D graphics, whether or not that will last remains to be seen.
3D Graphics aren’t the only thing new in this release, Flash 11 is now a 64-bit application on Windows, OS X and Linux. Adobe has also announced the release of Air 3.0 with improved tools for installing Air and converting Air apps to native iOS and Android applications.
If you hate Flash the latest release probably isn’t going to change your mind. Nor is it likely to convince Apple or Microsoft that Flash should be apart of their OSes. But if you’re a game developer who’d like to build console-quality games on the web, Flash 11 is your friend.