I think it’s about time we got an Adobe category. Apple recently made public an API to allow OS X software access to hardware H.264 acceleration (albeit such acceleration is only available on chipsets since the Nvidia 9400M–early 2008) and Adobe have already baked this in to a beta preview of Flash 10.1 “Gala”! Update: Steve Jobs himself weighs in on Flash (via Engadget): “New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”
I’ll admit fault that I thought they’d never get around to this in a timely fashion, but indeed they have. The addition of hardware accelerated video playback will go a long way to quell continued criticism of Adobe Flash Player being slower on Mac OS X and it was shown that in the case of video, hardware acceleration APIs are available on Windows but were not available on Mac OS X, shifting the blame to Apple.
Adobe have also adopted CoreAnimation in Flash betas.
The support for the Core Animation drawing model was originally driven by Apple and we have worked feverishly to finish the engineering work on both sides. Yes that’s right: This was and is a joint effort between Apple and Adobe engineers. Given the now almost perfect integration of Core Animation plugins into Safari I hope that future versions of the Flash Player will take advantage of more capabilities of OpenGL. And that without the requirement of setting any special wmode. I am pretty stoked about it.
These changes to Safari to give plugins more access to native APIs will provide Flash with opportunities for much tighter integration with OS X and could hopefully solve the age old problem of Flash content spinning the fans upâ€”Core Animation is hardware accelerated and managed by OS X, so Flash content will appear to OS X in such a way that it can throtle power effectively instead of the Flash walled garden wracking up 100% CPU with no way for the OS to peak inside.
Also in minor related news, Adobe were criticised by blogger Chris Messina who keeps a fascinating stream of screenshots of various bits of UI/UX. Chris had taken a screenshot of the Flash Installer asking him to force-quit the Finder! Complaints about Adobe UI are all over the web, but Adobe did the gentlemanly thing and fixed the issue and even replied on the Flickr page!
Adobe will have a lot of bad rep to get over in the HTML5 â€œwarâ€. There’s no reason Flash couldn’t be an excellent product (of which Flash Player 10.1 looks set to be) and a lot of the reasoning thrown at Adobe for the will for HTML5 to replace Flash is simply the current Flash experience. Not so much has been said about the open / close side of the arguments. Adobe can and will fix the performance and stability issues with Flash Player and then when the complaining goes away, how many will be fighting for HTML5 because of openness rather than stability?
Whilst the iPhone and iPad will not support Flash as long as Steve Jobs roams this mortal coil, the truth is that as of yet there is no handset that fully supports Flash (that means Flash proper, not Flash Lite or Flash 9) so the argument is for intents and purposes, moot. Adobe have stepped up their game though and are in talks with numerous handset vendors to provide Flash 10.1 across the board. Flash 10.1 will be arriving on Android handsets capable of running Android 2.2 â€œFroyoâ€ (â€œThe Frogurt is also cursed.â€)
Adobe’s business model for Flash depends upon it having a majority of availability for content delivery. As an opponent to Flash (for the freedom reasons, not the stability ones) I can’t see a reason to develop content with Flash and then have to do it all again for the purposes of supporting iPad users when supporting iPad users comes almost free when you’re writing the content in HTML anyway. Adobe will have a genuine battle convincing both users that they should be demanding Flash support on their handsets and that developers should be providing Flash content using Adobe’s tools. This will be the interesting aspect to see how Flash competes with HTML5 on user experience, performance and battery life. The browser war is over,but the runtime war has just begun.