Better video with less CPU power is promised by Adobe's Flash Player 10.2, which uses a hardware-acceleration technology called Stage Video. Adobe said Stage Video playback is 34 times more efficient and needs only one to 15 percent CPU usage for greater battery life. Flash Player 10.2 also supports multiple displays and better text readability.
Adobe Systems has released version 10.2 of its Flash Player, which introduces a hardware -accelerated video technology called Stage Video. The company said Stage Video offers higher-quality video "while using dramatically less processing power , giving users a better experience, greater performance, and longer battery life."
In fact, Adobe said, when tested on supported systems, Stage Video was 34 times more efficient than the previous video playback on Flash. Supported systems include Windows 7, Vista and XP; Windows Server 2003 and 2008; Mac OS X 10.4 through 10.6; three versions of Linux; and Solaris 10.
'Slick HD Home Theaters'
Adobe said 1080p HD video can now be played back with only one to 15 percent CPU usage on a Mac or Windows machine using various browsers. In its tests, the company said, Flash Player 10.2 was used with Stage Video on a two-year-old Mac Mini and a low-power GPU-enabled Windows netbook, and "smooth full HD 1080p video" used less than eight percent of the CPU. More current or more powerful computers can be expected to use less.
"Many millions of additional PCs, from netbooks to desktops, can now become slick HD home theaters on the web," the company said.
Flash Player 10.1 has hardware-accelerated decoding for H.264, on which Stage Video builds. But the impact Adobe is describing may take some time to ripple through the web, as web sites and content providers need to update their site video players so Stage Video can be presented. Video libraries don't need updating.
The Flash technology is widespread. According to Adobe, Flash content reaches between 98 and 99 percent of all Internet users. Player 10.1 has an 87.4 percent penetration in the U.S. and Canada, and 86.2 percent in Europe, plus more than 80 percent in other markets. The company said 80 percent penetration is the tipping point, when developers start to use features in a new version.
Other New Features
While Stage Video is the headliner for 10.2, there are several other new features as well. There's multiple display full screen support, so that, for instance, a user can watch Flash video on one screen and use a Flash-based tool or game on another.
There's also support for custom native mouse cursors for creating static and animated cursors, sub-pixel text rendering enhancements to enhance text readability in Flash, and support for the GPU rendering technology in Microsoft 's new Internet Explorer 9 browser.
Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, said Stage Video's impact could be big "as we see new tablets and other ARM-based devices with Nvidia chipsets" lend hardware acceleration to high-quality video playback.
The result, he said, will be "much longer battery life" while playing HD video, and a boon for long-distance travelers who want to watch video without continually swapping batteries or recharging.
In the struggle against Apple, which has disparaged Flash as being a glutton for memory and power, Hammond said Stage Video will show that the technology runs "pretty efficiently."