Adobe unveiled the latest version of its Flash Player browser plug-in Thursday, pushing a series of new graphical features such as 3-D animated effects with a beta version of Flash Player 10 in an effort to stay ahead of increasing competition.
The new Flash Player, which has no set final release date, has several new features Adobe hopes will help maintain the plug-in's dominance -- its penetration is more than 98% -- among an ever-expanding group of competitive rich Internet application platforms and development methodologies, including Microsoft Silverlight, Ajax, and Sun's forthcoming JavaFX.
"Adobe has a long track record of creating technologies that influence market direction, and we believe this beta release of Adobe Flash Player 10 raises the bar once again," David Wadhwani, general manager and VP of the Platform Business Unit at Adobe, said in a statement.
Significantly, Adobe added support for three-dimensional animated effects. Graphical objects can be rotated or manipulated so that, for example, a developer can create a digital, three-dimensional array of two-dimensional cell phone images that appears to revolve around a central axis to help consumers decide what cell phone to buy from an online store.
Another new feature of Flash Player 10 is an expanded group of filter effects that use Adobe's free Pixel Bender Toolkit, which is also currently in testing, to easily create filters that can embed effects such as a twirled view of Flash media -- video, text, or graphics -- into any Flash application. An improved filter feature was one of the top requests for Flash Player 10, which was code-named Astro.
Adobe has enhanced performance by enlisting the user's graphics card to render Flash graphics as well as by employing dynamic streaming, which means that video quality changes automatically with network performance.
In Flash Player 10, Adobe also completely rewrote the text engine to add new layout support and font manipulation capability. It added a better interface for Flash Player's Drawing API -- no longer will hand coding be needed for complex shapes -- and more low-level access to rendering features to encourage third-party rendering software development for Flash.
The beta version of Flash Player 10 will run on several versions of Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
According to Adobe, all of the features in Flash Player 10 will also be available in a future version of the company's AIR platform for rich Internet applications that run outside of a Web browser. It's unclear when that will be available.