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Adobe Flash Player 11 Will Have an Eye on Gaming

The final versions of Flash Player 11 and Air 3 will be released in early October

Adobe Flash may be losing ground online to HTML 5 with Web developers and companies such as Apple and Microsoft, but that hasn't stopped Adobe from innovating on its still ubiquitous online video platform. The company has announced that the final versions of Flash Player 11 and Air 3 will be released in early October after being available as a public beta since July. The next Flash platform includes a new hardware-accelerated 3D rendering engine called Stage 3D that the company says is 1,000 times faster than Flash Player 10.

Flash Player 11 can "animate millions of objects with smooth 60 frames per second," making console-quality games possible on OS X, Windows and connected televisions, according to Adobe. Even Apple iOS devices get some love from the next Flash platform with support for full frame rate HD video displayed on iOS devices using AIR-based apps. Flash Player 11 will also support native 64-bit optimization for browsers on Windows, OS X and Linux operating systems.

The new Flash platform sounds like a great step forward, but does it matter at this point? Adobe may have found a way to sneak Flash on to iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone, but the fact is Apple has explicitly banned Adobe's video technology from the iPad's browser. Microsoft recently announced that on Windows 8, the Metro-style version of Internet Explorer 10 would not support plug-ins such as Flash.

You can still use Flash by firing up the traditional Windows desktop, but if you live in Metro on Windows 8 you may never see Flash, at least online. Without comprehensive browser support on Windows 8, iOS (and who knows what Apple might do in the future on OS X), Adobe loses the main channel through which most users interact with Flash, the Web.

But it's not as if Flash will disappear tomorrow. Adobe says more than 1 billion people currently have Flash Player installed on their devices. In the mobile space, the company expects Flash to be supported on more than 200 million smartphones and tablets by the end of the year, thanks to Adobe Air. That projection includes Apple iOS devices running Adobe Air apps such as the game Machinarium.

Adobe is also betting that Stage 3D will keep Flash alive. The company is billing Flash Player 11 as the "next-generation console for the Web." The first wave of games supporting Flash Player 11 with Stage 3D is expected to roll out later this year and into early 2012. Flash Player 11 gaming will feature hardware-accelerated graphics, 1080p high-definition video, full screen viewing, native support for various inputs including mouse, multi-touch and camera, and voice chat.

Will souped up gaming technologies be enough to stave off HTML 5's advance and the end of Flash's online dominance? We won't really know for sure until at least 2012.

You can download the Flash Player 11 release candidate for Windows, OS X and Linux right now.

Check out this 3D gaming demo for Tanki Online 2.0. One of several forthcoming games featuring Flash Player 11 support:

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.


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