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Adobe AIR 3 to Accelerate Performance on iOS Devices

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In the run-up to MAX 2011, which takes place the first week of October in Los Angeles, Adobe announced the impending release of Flash Player 11, as both a desktop client and a mobile beta, with several interesting new features.

The biggest news is the integration of full hardware acceleration across both Flash Player 11 and Adobe's integrated runtime platform (AIR 3). The company claims increased rendering performance "1000 times faster" than current versions of Flash Player and AIR.

Adobe claims 2D and 3D graphics acceleration will be possible on Apple iOS devices, perhaps gaining access to the core animation and graphics processor functionality. In addition to Apple iOS, the company says it will support Google's Android platform for hardware acceleration -- a feature previously available only on select Android devices, as shown in Transitions mobile testing reports -- allowing Android devices to generate smooth playback up to 60 frames per second.

Not content to be known as a one-platform company, as StreamingMedia.com pointed out in an earlier article, Adobe is reiterating support for the BlackBerry tablet OS, which powers Research in Motion's (RIM) PlayBook.

PlayBook integrates AIR directly in the operating system, but the fate of the PlayBook device itself is somewhat suspect as the company announced its sales had dropped from 500,000 units in the first quarter of availability to 200,000 units in the second quarter.

To bolster AIR use on other platforms, Adobe announced that developers can integrate AIR 3 directly into their application packages. This means that end users won't be required to download AIR after downloading an application requiring AIR, a frustration faced by many users that did not have the required runtime on all of their devices.

Adobe's move to integrate AIR into application packages also offers developers the ability to maintain a particular AIR version number, even when Adobe updates AIR to a newer version for general release. In the Transitions tests, we found this ability to limit version updates to AIR to be critical for some gaming and streaming player applications, as they broke when an automatic AIR update was applied.

For streaming delivery, Adobe plans to strengthen AIR -- via a future production release for mobile platforms -- to allow full-frame rate HD video playback on Apple iOS devices.

Using hardware acceleration and integrated AIR within approved iTunes Store apps, as mentioned above, Adobe expects to achieve full-frame rate HD playback by piggybacking on native H.264 decoding in the Apple iOS.

In order to entice premium content owners, however, Adobe needed to integrate content protection on mobile devices. We covered this topic in the announcement of Flash Media Server 4.5, but Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 add a few of the key missing pieces. Combining Adobe Flash Access and Adobe Pass with support in Flash Player 11 for mobile devices, Adobe anticipates content publishers will (according to a press release) "take advantage of rental and subscription options for more flexible business models" for mobile users. This strategy will be interesting to watch, given Apple's recent move to curtail television show rentals and focus instead of TV show purchases for both its iOS- and Macintosh-powered devices.

Finally, as Flash Player typically is released on desktop platforms prior to release on mobile devices, Adobe announced that Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 will support native 64-bit support on three desktop operating systems: Linux, Mac OS, and Windows.

StreamingMedia.com will cover additional announcements from Adobe MAX 2011, starting on October 3.

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