Adobe releases Flash Player 10.2 beta

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Apple and Adobe have exchanged plenty of salvos in their skirmish over the future of rich content on the Web, but now Adobe’s attempting to match actions to words. On Tuesday, the company announced the beta release of the next version of Flash Player, which it says will bring vastly improved video performance on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

The aptly-named marquee feature of Flash Player 10.2 is Stage Video, which Adobe describes as a new API allowing for high performance video playback with a lower resource footprint. According to the company, Stage Video can leverage a computer’s graphics processor to do the heavy lifting for several parts of the streaming video process, resulting in very low CPU usage.

All developers need to do to reap the benefits is switch to the new API in their existing Flash video player code—videos don’t need to be reencoded. Also built into Stage Video are DVR-inspired playback controls and content protection. YouTube is listed among those that are already building in support for the new software.

There are a couple of other improvements in the new version, including full-screen video support on multiple monitors, meaning you’ll now be able to play a full-screen video on one of your monitors while still working on another. Adobe’s also added support for native custom mouse cursors and enhancements to text rendering that should increase readability.

But it’s Stage Video which will undoubtedly get the most attention. Flash has become a touchy issue for some developers and users, especially on the Mac, where the software has never performed to the same standards as its Windows counterpart. The promise of low-CPU usage has been trotted out before, including with the hardware decoding support first added in Flash Player 10.1, but that update didn’t stop Apple from removing Flash Player as part of the included software on new Macs. And having taken such a decisive step, it seems unlikely that Cupertino will reverse that decision, no matter what Flash Player 10.2 brings.

If you’re a hardy soul, you can install the beta version of Flash Player 10.2 right now—Adobe says it’s fairly stable, though as they point out, it’s intended primarily for developers. The final version of Flash Player 10.2—the one for end users—won’t be released until next year.

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