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AIR 2 and Flash Player 10.1 betas on Adobe Labs

AIR 2 and Flash Player 10.1 betas on Adobe Labs

Today, Adobe released beta versions of their two major runtimes so that developers can test and play with them. Todays beta's are still missing a few of the features, but these will arrive soon. We talked to the senior product managers at Adobe ahead of the launch to see if we could find out more than what's known already such as the new Peer to Peer features.

Direct link to AIR 2.0 (info / download / setup instructions) and Flash Player 10.1 (info / download / setup instructions) on Adobe Labs. While fun to play with, the real reason for the Beta is to find bugs, so report Flash Player bugs here and AIR2 bugs here.

By now you've probably seen the sessions and keynote from Adobe MAX and Christian Cantrell's excellent overview of what's new in AIR 2.0 so we won't go into detail on that. Todays launch will let you play with most of these new features. The key to authoring for the beta is an updated "PlayerGlobal.swc" that contains the new APIs. You can find this on Adobe Labs along with instructions on how to set it up. It won't include the iPhone authoring, AIR printing, global error handling and a few other things, but that's coming soon. If you want to beta test Flash CS5 when it's available, you can now sign up to be notified about that.

Todays launch is the first of more betas. There will be at least one more before AIR2 and FP10.1 is released to the public. The next beta version of of AIR will most probably include the missing printing support and Adobe is aiming for this second beta before the year end (if possible). The approach is new from Adobe, but according to Tom Barclay (Senior product marketing manager for the Adobe Flash Platform) this does not indicate a longer product cycle, just more frequent updates. Tom also mentioned that there might be another dot release before Flash Player 11 comes out.

This 10.1 release is not a major release for Adobe, but it's certainly a milestone both internally and for anyone that have done Flash Lite development. This release is really all about getting Flash Player 10 to mobile platforms, be it phones, set top boxes or other devices. Finally you'll be able to target any device using standard AS3, so now it's only developers doing Flash Media Server programming that have to linger in the past. There is no official release date yet other than 'first half of 2010'.

That said, there are a few really unique features in this dot release. AIR will offer a lightweight P2P solution that does not require a server. All you need is the IP to connect to. Initially, this offering is quite basic, but more features to be added later. The ability to use UDP for communication is also something we have not seen mentioned before and for Linux users the Flash Player will now be delivered as RPM and Debian packages in addition to the BIN format. All in all there's more than 60 new classes/APIs in AIR 2.0 and you'll find more detail on these in the official Beta documentation.

This release is the first one where Adobe will launch simultaneously on all the desktop platforms (Windows, OSX and Linux) for both Flash Player and AIR. This is possible due to a reorganizing of the Flash Player teams inside Adobe. It is still separate teams for the runtimes, but they are now gathered under the Platform Group. Before it was pretty much the Flash Player team that ran the platform, but after this reorganization, other teams may contribute to the Player as well. All the teams now use the same codebase, no matter the target platform and this has enabled the AIR team to work on the new Audio features for this release. We have no idea how this works out internally, but if it works well it might make it possible to cram in more features in each release or to target some really solid features like full hardware acceleration.

Adobe has also gotten some help from other companies for this release. The key to making mobile devices run Flash 10 at reasonable speeds is to utilize the Graphics chips (GPUs) found in these devices. Experts from Nvidia have helped Adobe with this and they even presented their progress at the MAX conference. This also marks a new trend at Adobe and the Open Screen Project (OSP) is key. When one of the OSP vendors want Flash for their device, it's not Adobe that codes and delivers this. The vendors will do the port for their OS and to do this they need official certification from Adobe. There is a Certification Center that software engineers go through and when they are finished, they get access to a reference implementation for Linux that they can use as a basis. The training is based upon what already existed for Flash Lite and the vendors use of the Flash Player brand is based on the level of certification.

AIR 2.0 holds many new features and it's one we've been really curious about, the ability to use native processes. We asked Rob Christensen (Senior product manager for Adobe AIR) about the NativeProcess API installer that will allow AIR files to fully interact with the users system and hardware. Is this the end of Projector tools? He answered that "AIR is always crossplatform. Since NativeProcess requires OS dependency, it does not make sense to distribute this as an AIR file". The new authoring tools will not make projectors, but rather separate installers in the form of EXE, DMG, RPM and Debian files. The executable checks if AIR is installed. If it is, it'll install the .air file with the right privileges. If not, it will download AIR and then do the install.

Rob could not provide any more detail on what devices will get AIR support first, but he confirmed that they have solved the issue with updating both the AIR and Flash runtime on devices over the air (OTA). Updating the runtime is done in one of three ways: 1) It can be content triggered installs that'll take the user to (as with the desktop version of the Flash plugin). 2) custom stores that the provider sets up or 3) a system update from the OEM.

We're really looking forward to trying this out as the hands on demos we've seen have not been sluggish like Flash Lite used to be. All the major vendors (except Apple) will offer devices with Flash Player capabilities, so the market for Flash developers keeps expanding.

Head over to Adobe Labs to check out the new possibilities or if you have not done so already, check out the hundreds of hours of sessions from the MAX conference.


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