Adobe Revamps Flash Player for Netbooks, P2P, Private Browsing

Adobe has released the first beta for Flash 10.1, the next major milestone for the Flash Player plugin.

Flash 10.1 is an important update not just for its enhanced speed and new features, but also for Adobe to show that there is in fact still a place for Flash on the web.

Flash’s ubiquity as the solution for web video and animations has been challenged recently; first by HTML5, which gives developers a standardized way to embed audio, video and animation without resorting to Flash, and also by Apple’s decision to ban Flash from its iPhone/iPad platform.

While we expect HTML5 to slowly but surely replace Flash for common tasks like web audio and video, the plugin still offers many features HTML5 doesn’t and Flash 10.1 builds on those strengths with several new features.

The two most interesting features for web developers are the new priority tag in the Flash HTML embed code and the peer-assisted networking features.

The priority tag is especially helpful for speeding up page load times on netbooks and mobile devices since it allows developers to lower the priority of a Flash movie. Set the priority tag to something low and your Flash movie won’t try to load until the rest of the page is already finished. That means faster page load times and no waiting around for large Flash movies before you see the surrounding content.

The peer-assisted networking builds on Flash’s existing P2P capabilities to offer peer-based streaming media — think BitTorrent in your Flash player. However, don’t look for Flash-based torrent clients, what’s more likely are browser-based VOIP apps, better chat features in Flash games, improved conferencing applications and possibly even P2P radio streaming.

Other new features available in Flash 10.1 include support for the host browser’s “private browsing” mode (Flash won’t accept cookies or other local objects when you’re in “private” mode), a new accelerometer class (don’t even think about using it for the iPhone), hardware video decoding, much better performance and more.

For full details on everything that’s new, be sure to check out the release notes.

For now Flash 10.1 is a beta release, so it’s a bit soon to start using the new features in the wild. But if you’d like to test them out, head over to the Adobe Labs download page and grab a copy (be sure to use the uninstaller to delete your existing Flash Player before you install the new version). The updated Flash for Mobile client will reportedly be arriving later in 2010.

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