Archive for May, 2010

Flash Player in Chrome, An Update

As we recently announced, we’re working with Google to integrate Flash Player into Google Chrome so that when users install or update the browser, they will also receive the latest version of Adobe Flash Player, with no need to do a separate install.
Chrome 5.0 and Flash Player 10.1 have been in beta testing together for the last several weeks. Now as we are preparing our final releases, Google is locking down Chrome 5.0 first, without the beta version of Flash Player 10.1 built-in (since the plug-in will still be in beta when Chrome 5.0 ships). Once we finalize Flash Player 10.1, it will be reintegrated into Chrome shortly.
In the meantime, if you download the latest build of Chrome, the integrated Flash Player will not be enabled by default (though it is still available behind the “-enable-internal-flash” command line flag). However, if you have a version of Flash Player on your system for other plugin-based browsers, Chrome will automatically use the shared version of Flash Player.

Mobile Enterprise Sample Applications Powered by Adobe AIR, Flex and Android

Last week at the Google I/O conference, we announced the public availability of the Adobe AIR for Android Developer Prerelease program. This week, we wanted to highlight a few excellent examples of AIR and Android powered enterprise applications developed by two members of our evangelism team, Christophe Coenraets and James Ward.

Both Christophe and James recently recorded inspiring video demonstrations of some of the sample applications they have been working on lately.

Mobile version of Employee Directory application by Christophe Coenraets.

Trading sample application by Christophe Coenraets.

Example of a Flex and AIR application that includes multi-touch support by James Ward.

The Engineering Behind Flash Player 10.1

Today represents an exciting milestone for the Flash Platform as we officially launch the public beta release of Flash Player 10.1 on Android-based devices. The Beta release is now available and as soon as Google releases their update to the Android OS, code-named “FroYo”, users will be able to get the new Flash Player installed over the air from the Android Market. The public beta release is your opportunity to try out our dramatically updated browser-based runtime with a deep focus on performance, battery life, memory management, user experience on mobile devices, and other mobile-specific features. With the pervasive use of Flash Player content on the web today, users will be able to experience the full extent of the web that Flash enables including video, games, animations, Rich Internet Apps, data presentations and visualizations, commerce, music, and so much more. It’s great to see that our extensive technical collaboration on this with our partners is now becoming a reality. To give you some perspective on the magnitude of this release, let’s look at some of the performance improvements and optimizations we made for Flash Player 10.1.

Power and Battery Optimizations

Mobile platforms are carefully tuned to deliver a broad range of capabilities while minimizing battery consumption. Flash Player 10.1 was developed to seamlessly integrate into this environment. To deliver on this objective, we added a new capability called instance management to intelligently load and play back Flash content only after it comes within view on the web page. This capability also allows us to work in conjunction with the browser to ensure the web page is loaded as quickly as possible.

A related capability we added is called pause and resume. Flash Player will automatically pause the content that is running when the browser is hidden from view or the current tab is placed in the background. Not only does this conserve power, but it allows the content to instantly hibernate should an important trigger event occur, such as an incoming phone call. Once the user returns to their browser session, the HTML page and the Flash content are returned to their exact point prior to the trigger event.

Another example of a power-saving capability we have developed is called timer throttling. Flash Player makes use of timers to control the speed of content execution. When the screen display dims, Flash Player utilizes this signal to automatically throttle back the speed at which the content is executing while the device is in this power-saving mode. In the case where the content is playing back audio or video, Flash Player will not throttle it back to ensure a seamless media playback experience.

These new capabilities in Flash Player 10.1 offer some insight into the priority we placed on conserving power and staying true to the goal of maximizing battery life on mobile devices.

Maximizing Performance

The architecture of mobile platforms is very different from desktops, laptops, and netbooks. To take advantage of these highly integrated hardware environments, we took a very comprehensive look at how Flash Player uses the CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The Flash Player team, with engineering cooperation across our Open Screen Project partners, meticulously optimized the machine instructions used in our virtual machine, rendering engine, and media codecs to run efficiently on mobile hardware.

In the case of the ActionScript 3 virtual machine, we updated our just-in-time compiler to emit native ARM instructions to maximize the execution speed of applications on these platforms. With a significant portion of the Flash content on the web having been written in ActionScript 1 and 2, we also invested in increasing the execution speed of this content.

In addition, Flash Player will take advantage of the purpose-built hardware on the mobile device including the media decoders to optimize the playback of content such as H.264 video and AAC audio streams. This specialized hardware can often perform a specific task more efficiently than the CPU. Not only does this result in higher fidelity playback, but it can yield a nice power savings.

The investments we made in execution speed will be apparent in a broad range of content, from Flash applications to games to video, and everything in between. We took an extensive look at the performance characteristics of Flash Player in many different scenarios and drove considerable improvements in the execution speed. As a result of this work, most Flash content on the web today will execute more efficiently with no changes required to receive these benefits.

Conserving Memory

Mobile platforms have considerably less memory than most personal computers and Flash Player 10.1 includes numerous optimizations to minimize the amount of memory required for content and applications. We have added automatic compression of media in memory to matchthe typically smaller screen size and color depth of a mobile device. We have also enhanced the memory garbage collection system to work more effectively, particularly in low memory situations. We made changes to more aggressively release temporary buffers and media caches for images and audio data. These changes have translated into some dramatic improvements. In some cases, you’ll see content that now automatically consumes 50% less memory with Flash Player 10.1 when compared to our previous release.

Another important enhancement we made relates to streaming media. In some cases, content such as video is buffered in memory to allow the user to quickly seek forward or backward. In the case of mobile platforms, we added a new circular buffering capability that allows Flash Player to constrain the size of the media buffer and recycle this memory as the content plays. This new capability strikes a balance between allowing the user to navigate within sequential media, like video, and the amount of memory that content can consume.

The Flash Player team also did a lot of development around low memory support, as this is a common situation on mobile devices. To protect against content that requires too much memory for the device, we added a new system that detects when memory is running low so defensive actions can be taken to prevent a crash. In this case, the Flash Player now has a set of heuristics to shut down content when resources are running low or depleted and gracefully exit the content. This work will also benefit personal computer users that have many tabs open in their browser such that their PC is operating in a low memory situation.

Usability and Interactivity

The last topic I’ll cover is usability. In this case, it’s critically important that Flash content on a smart phone both behave consistently with the HTML page and enable rich interactivity with media in Flash. For example, as a web page can be zoomed using a multi-touch gesture by the user, the Flash content needs to enable that to happen seamlessly. If the user rotates the phone to switch into landscape mode, the Flash content responds as you’d expect. If the user double-taps to zoom in or out, the Flash content responds in a consistent, intuitive way. We have enhanced this interaction to enable a new smart-zoom capability, bringing zoomed Flash content to the best width/height dimension for the device to enable easy viewing of video and other content in Flash. We have also added the ability for content to specify that it should automatically go into full screen mode on first interaction in order to enable easy full screen interactivity with games. This new mode is indicated to the user with a message about how to exit full screen mode on their particular device.
The Flash Player team added a number of new capabilities that are essential to smart phones. Text fields in Flash will automatically take advantage of virtual or soft keyboards for text entry when a physical input device is not available. In this case, the text field is intelligently repositioned on the screen to facilitate text input.

In addition, Flash Player exposes some of the unique capabilities of mobile platforms, including access to the accelerometer. This will allow the Flash development community to create content that leverages some of the unique capabilities. We’ve got more work to do here, but we’re off to a good start and look forward to exposing new capabilities in the future, such as geolocation support.

These examples demonstrate the importance of ensuring that Flash content on a mobile device offers a predictable and intuitive experience to the end-user. To help ensure that we got the experience right, we conducted multiple rounds of usability testing to try out new ideas and improve the experience based on the feedback we received. Our goal was to ensure that existing content simply works as expected and ultimately allow smart phone users to experience the full glory of the web.

Looking Ahead

As we look forward, it’s important to note that this is just the start of our work to bring the full Flash Player to mobile devices. We will continue to improve on this effort as we support a broad range of smart phones, tablets, televisions, and other devices. Of course, a number of these optimizations and improvements will also directly benefit Flash Player on desktop and netbook platforms. At the same time, we’ve seen content publishers like Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon, Miniclip, Warner Brothers, Kongregate, South Park Studios and others already optimizing their sites to deliver the best possible experience within the context of smaller screens. Developers, who are looking for tips about optimizing Flash content for mobile devices should check out this document.

Smartphones in market today that will be able to run Flash Player 10.1 include the Nexus One, DROID by Motorola, HTC Evo, HTC Incredible, HTC Desire, Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Milestone and others, but will depend on FroYo availability for a given device. Upgrade mechanisms and timing will vary by device and device manufacturer. To make it as easy as possible to install Flash Player, we are enabling over-the-air downloads which include content-initiated downloads, system software updates, and on-device app catalogs. Over time, a number of new phones are planned to ship with Flash Player 10.1 preinstalled. We’re thrilled to take the first step today and can’t wait to see how millions of Flash developers will innovate for mobile devices.

I hope you’re as excited about the future and the opportunities ahead as we are.

Paul Betlem
Sr. Director, Flash Player Engineering
PS: If you are a developer and want to start developing apps for Android today, check out this post from the AIR team and read all about the AIR SDK developer release we made available for Android today.

Available Now: Developer Prerelease of AIR for Android

We are pleased today to announce the public availability of the Adobe AIR for Android Developer Prerelease program. Any designer or developer interested in building Android applications using the Flash Platform is welcome to join this program to get access to our beta SDK. Whether you are already an experienced Flash developer or just interested in learning Flash, we encourage you to join our prerelease program to get started on building Android applications today using AIR.

You will gain immediate access to our beta AIR Android SDK

By joining the prerelease program, developers will also have access to a new extension to
Flash Professional CS5 that publishes directly to Android devices. The extension adds a new AIR for Android publish setting that works in the shipping and 30-day trial versions of Flash Professional CS5.

At Google I/O today, we are also showing several AIR applications running on Android smartphones. These applications were built by members of a small private prerelease program we have been running for the past month. Their experience has been very positive and they have already created some great applications with our early builds.

A selection of AIR applications shown at Google I/O

Qrossfire.png connectpro.png
Qrossfire – Bowler Hat Games
gio_0.png BlogRadio.png
Google I/O Scheduler-Veronique Brossier
fruitsmash.jpg trackometer.png
Fruit Smash – Electrotank
Trackometer – Spin Technologies

We continue to make great progress towards releasing AIR for Android in the second half of this year. We look forward to working with Google and other Open Screen Project partners to bring innovative applications created with AIR to multiple platforms and devices.

Thanks,
Michael Chou
Product Manager, Adobe AIR for Android

Vimeo Uploader Makes Uploading Movies a Breeze

Vimeo is a popular online video community due to its support for high-quality video playback, beautiful and easy-to-use site design and social networking features. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover that Vimeo built a powerful uploading tool powered by Adobe AIR. There are a number of online services today that rely on AIR for uploading content including Photoshop.com.

The Vimeo desktop uploader allows users to:

  • Upload multiple files
  • Batch edit video info and privacy
  • Pause & resume an upload
  • Reliably upload large video files up to 1GB and beyond

Below is a tutorial recorded by a member of the Vimeo community that demonstrates how the uploading tool works.

Congratulations to the team at Vimeo for building an extremely useful tool!

Adobe Dreamweaver Team Released Widget Browser Powered by Adobe AIR

The Dreamweaver team recently released the Adobe Dreamweaver Widget Browser on Labs that allows web developers to quickly build out rich visual interfaces using JavaScript and CSS. With the Widget Browser, you can quickly preview and download OpennAjax widgets available on the Adobe Exchange. Once downloaded, you can add widgets to Dreamweaver CS5 and easily insert them within your web pages. If you are interested in adding your own widgets, the Dreamweaver team released a developer’s guide that provides all of the details you need to get started.

The video above by James Williamson provides an excellent overview of how the Widget Browser works. The application is powered by Adobe AIR and the Flex SDK.

Note: While you can download the Widget Browser and browser the available widgets, you will need to use Dreamweaver CS5 in order to take advantage of many of the features described above.

Adobe AIR 2 Release Candidate Now Available on Labs

The Adobe AIR 2 Release Candidate (RC) build is now available on Adobe Labs. Please be sure to download the latest AIR runtime and, if you are an application developer, SDK. If you run into any issues, please let us know by using our feedback form to send us a bug. Please be sure to include all relevant information necessary to reproduce the issue.

Important: Applications built against Adobe AIR 2 beta 2 *will not run* using the AIR 2 RC runtime. In order for an AIR 2 beta 2 application to run on the AIR 2 RC runtime, the namespace of the beta 2 application descriptor file must first be updated to “2.0” and compiled against the AIR 2 RC SDK.

HipChat Supercharges Chat With Adobe AIR Powered Collaboration Service

Today, I had the pleasure of connecting with the talented team at HipChat, developers of a new instant messaging service. HipChat is designed to help companies easily collaborate on projects using chat rooms and file sharing. The video above provides an excellent overview of the service and demonstrates the desktop application powered by Adobe AIR (users can also use a web interface).

From the HipChat website, features include:

  • File sharing and storage. Share PDFs, mockups, and documents for instant feedback. Access them any time from the HipChat client or on the web.
  • Chat rooms. Use rooms for departments, teams, or projects. Rooms can be open for anyone to join, or private for only invited members.
  • One-on-one messaging. Have side conversations with your teammates. You’ll have chat history and file sharing to help you keep track.
  • Notifications. Customize HipChat alerts with sounds, flashes, and pop-ups. Get someone’s attention by typing @name.
  • Chat and file history. HipChat automatically saves your conversations and files. Never forget who said what, and when. Access history anywhere you have internet
  • Emoticons. Express yourself using emoticons.
  • Spell checking. HipChat will keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of your team members (at least spelling-wise).
  • … explore additional features on the HipChat website

If you are interested in checking out the service, it is free for 30 days and you can sign-up here.Congratulations to the team! It is great to see another company targeting the enterprise with a service that includes an AIR application.

Screenshot:

private_chat-thumb.png

 

Explore New Articles at the Adobe Developer Connection Website

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The Adobe Developer Connection (ADC) is an amazing resource for developers looking to explore the latest content related to Adobe tools, frameworks and runtime technologies like Flash Player and Adobe AIR. With the recent launches of the Flex 4 SDK, Flash Builder 4, Flash Catalyst CS5, and Flash Professional CS5, there is an incredible amount of new material to explore.If you have not had the opportunity to visit the ADC already, there is a dedicated section that focuses on Adobe AIR content.

Below are a few articles that are applicable to building out-of-browser applications using Adobe AIR that I would encourage you to explore:

If you have an idea for an article that you would like to see on the Adobe Developer Connection website, please leave a comment with your proposal. If you are interested in writing an article on your proposed topic, be sure to mention that in your comment as well.