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Adobe Launches Flash Player 10.1 Prerelease Build

Adobe today launched a prerelease version of Flash Player 10.1 for Windows, Mac, and Linux, an early step in the company's effort to bring an integrated media experience to a wide variety of devices and platforms from desktops to smartphones.

Among the improvements available in the prerelease version are support for multi-touch and gestures, as well as local microphone access. Unfortunately, one of the most significant improvements of Flash Player 10.1, hardware-accelerated decoding of H.264 video, is presently only available in the Windows version. According to the release notes for Flash Player 10.1, the feature is unavailable on Mac OS X due to a lack of access to the programming interfaces needed to deploy it.

In Flash Player 10.1, H.264 hardware acceleration is not supported under Linux and Mac OS. Linux currently lacks a developed standard API that supports H.264 hardware video decoding, and Mac OS X does not expose access to the required APIs. We will continue to evaluate adding the feature to Linux and Mac OS in future releases.

In an early review of Flash Player 10.1, however, Anandtech still found significant improvements in CPU utilization under Mac OS X, dropping from 450% CPU load to 190% in viewing full-screen Hulu content on the Mac Pro used for testing.

Going from roughly 450% down to 190% (or a bit over 10% of total CPU utilization across 16 threads) made full-screen Hulu playable on my machine. In the past I always had to run it in a smaller window, but thanks to Flash 10.1 I don't have to any longer.

With actual GPU-accelerated H.264 decoding I'm guessing those CPU utilization numbers could drop to a remotely reasonable value. But it's up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.

Until then, even OS X users have something to look forward to with the Flash 10.1 upgrade.

Additional information on the features of Flash Player 10.1, including several video demos and interviews, can be found on Adobe's site.