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Adobe debuts full mobile Flash (minus the mobile)

Beta now, Player later

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The full version of Adobe Systems' Flash Player especially turned for mobiles is now in beta, just don't expect it running on any handsets yet.

Today, Adobe made Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 available for beta, but only for use on familiar old PCs, laptops and notebooks running Windows, Linux, or Mac.

Betas for mobile operating systems will rollout between now and the first half of 2010, Adobe told The Reg, when Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 are due to be delivered.

Unveiled Flash Player 10.1 at Adobe's MAX conference last month, Flash Player 10.1 is designed to be not a "lite" copy of the ubiquitous player for mobile devices but a full copy that used on desktops, laptops and netbooks in addition to mobile devices.

Tom Barclay, Adobe Flash platform senior product marketing manager, said a lot of the work done tuning the player for mobile will also benefit developers and users of desktops.

The beta comes as Microsoft - Adobe's partner and competitor on Flash and rich-internet applications (RIAs) - opens its Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, California. Microsoft is expected to use the event to talk up its Flash rival, Silverlight.

With a competitive eye on Microsoft, Barclay said the company's "come a long way" on features with Silverlight 3, released this summer, but Microsoft has a long way to go on mass-market adoption. Flash is on more than 90 per cent of PCs while Silverlight is on a fraction of that.

"We do hear form our community and developers and publishers they want to see 80 and 90 per cent adoption before they use a new runtime, and Flash has a consistent track record," Barclay said.

When it comes to mobile, we've yet to see anything from Microsoft beyond corporate promises to support Silverlight on handsets from Nokia.

A subset of Flash is already on mobile devices, but Flash Player 10.1 will bring the full player to Symbian S60, Google Android, Palm Web OS, and Windows Mobile 6.5. Apple's iPhone browser will not be supported, although developers will be able to build content using Creative Suite 5 and post applications to Apple's AppStore for download.

Barclay said Adobe's in an ongoing working relationship with Apple and that Adobe would like to see Flash on the iPhone.

Flash Player 10.1 will be made available by Adobe simultaneously across all platforms - "including all mobile platforms." When individual handsets featuring Flash 10.1 actually appear will vary by OEM.

In lieu of mobile-operating support today, Barclay instead called out features in the Flash 10.1 and AIR 2.0 beta built for mobile but suited to PCs, notebooks and nethooks. These included H.264 hardware acceleration for video on chipsets that Barclay said is significant for netbooks, because it delivers smooth-quality video on relatively inexpensive machines without soaking up the battery life or CPU. Flash Player 10.1 can also take advantage of touch for smart phones but also featured in Microsoft's latest client, Windows 7.

Other features in the Flash Player 10.1 beta are file-based encryption to protect content. This comes with the ability to set rules for how people purchase content such as films and music - such as through subscription or rental - and also there's improved streaming so there's no need rebuffer a stream.

Specifically for mobile devices, there's something Adobe's called Smart Reconnect that will let you continue playing back content using the buffer and detect when you are back online without a pause. Also there's circular buffering that purges old buffered content to save on memory, and also the ability to detect when a screen has been switched between horizontal and vertical.

AIR 2.0, meanwhile, adds Flash 10.1 features plus the ability to detect flash-storage devices or hard drives and support for native APIs, so you could - for example - attach an AIR screen capture to an email. ®

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