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Linux an equal Flash player
Oct. 15, 2008

Welcome to the future. Linux is now a first-class desktop operating system citizen. Adobe today released version 10 of its Adobe Flash Player, available now in a variety of convenient packaging formats for Linux, as well as other popular desktop operating systems.

Once upon a time, desktop Linux was a second-class citizen, where Flash was concerned. As recently as 2007, Linux users waited six months for Flash 9 to arrive.

Now, while Microsoft appears bent on leaving Linux users behind on Silverlight technology, its Flash alternative, Adobe has made Linux an equal player. It proudly boasts that "Flash Player content reaches over 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktops," while "80 percent of online videos worldwide are viewed using Adobe Flash technology." It further claims that Flash 9 achieved a 90 percent penetration on Internet-enabled desktops in fewer than nine months.

The release corresponds with Adobe's release of Create Suite 4, its content creation tools for online developers. The new Flash Player release supports new features and capabilities available in CS4, Adobe says, touting CS4's easy-to-use 2D and 3D animation effects.

Touted Flash 10 features, as described by Adobe, include:
  • New expressive features and visual performance improvements
  • New support for custom filters and effects, native 3D transformation and animation, advanced audio processing, and GPU hardware acceleration
  • More text layout options
  • Custom filters, blend modes, and fills to animate effects or change the effect on rich media content at runtime
Additionally, Adobe reiterated its commitment to the Open Screen Project. It first unveiled its Open Screen Project plans in May, saying it would work with the group to free file formats and APIs, with the aim of making Flash as ubiquitous on devices as on desktops.

David Wadhwani, GM of Adobe's platform unit, stated, "Designers and developers know if they deliver video, online games, rich Internet applications (RIAs) and other interactive experiences using Adobe Flash Player, they can reliably reach the entire Web."

Clearly, the market Adobe's in is content creation tools. The Player is just the free blades that sell the razors.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is arguably supporting the free Moonlight implementation of its Silverlight technology, by reselling Novell SUSE Linux licenses. Novell sponsors the Mono project, from which Moonlight is an offshoot. For a progress report on that effort, see our recent interview with Miguel de Icaza.

Linux availability or no, Flash is not smiled upon by all in the free and open source software communities. A non-profit organization fearful of letting Adobe gain too much control over the media distribution channels of the future has founded an interesting Gnash alternative that uses only freely licensed software and codecs.


Adobe Flash Player 10 is available immediately as a free download for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh platforms. Support for Solaris is expected later this year. Visit Adobe for the download.

Additionally, Adobe will add Flash 10 feature support to Adobe AIR -- another one of its content creation tools -- later this year, it says. AIR lets designers build Flash-based widgets that run outside the browser, on an integrated Flash Player runtime.

-- Henry Kingman

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