When Apple introduced the iPhone and iOS, it pushed for the adoption of HTML5 as an alternative to and replacement for Adobe Flash, stating that the plug-in is clunky, lacking in features, and not advancing. Since then, Adobe has buckled down and implemented a number of enhancements in Flash and its latest releases have brought massive speed and feature improvements. Today, Adobe has furthered this effort with the release of Flash Player 11 and AIR 3.0. You can also grab the updates manually from CNET Download.com: Flash Player 11 for Windows | Mac; and AIR 3 for Windows | Mac.
With these latest releases Adobe is bringing highly accelerated graphics support to the platform. According to Adobe, the new Stage3D technology in the new Flash Player brings combined 2D and 3D acceleration that is up to 1,000 times faster than the previous Flash and AIR iterations. While currently Stage3D is supported only for personal computers, it should make its way to mobile devices in future Flash releases.
The advancements offered by Stage3D should bring far more complex graphics development for the player, and allow some developers to use it as a viable alternative for their projects, especially for cross-platform efforts.
Adobe AIR (the company's cross-platform development environment) also has Stage3D support and other enhancements that have been brought to Flash. In addition, it includes more support for Android devices including software licensing and hardware, captive runtime support for developers to bundle AIR along with their programs (removing the requirement to separately install AIR), and native extensions for enhancing AIR's capabilities.
With these latest updates, Adobe is really improving Flash and AIR as alternative development environments and maintaining its relevance on the Web. While Flash may still pose problems for some users (especially battery use for mobile computers and devices), its improvements and features are impressive. Time will tell if Adobe has addressed the stability issues that many Mac users have experienced with past versions of the software, but if so then the software will likely be a major enhancement over previous versions.
Both Adobe AIR and Flash are available for Windows, Linux, and OS X, but on the Mac they require OS X 10.6 or later running on an Intel platform (Adobe removed support for PowerPC Macs in its Flash 10 release). As always, be sure to back up your system before installing the latest updates, for example with Apple's Time Machine for Mac users.