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Adobe fends off rivals with Flash Player 10

The incumbent power in rich Internet application technology just got a little more powerful. Flash Player 10 now has Silverlight 2 to reckon with, though.

Flash Player 10 was code-named Astro.
Flash Player 10 was code-named Astro. Adobe Systems

Astro is launched.

On Wednesday, Adobe Systems announced the release of a major update to its Flash technology to endow Web sites with better video, audio, and graphics. The new version 10 was code-named Astro, and it arrived just days after Microsoft released version 2.0 of its rival Silverlight software.

Flash Player 10, a free download also available for Windows and Mac users from, includes a number of new features:

• Easier-to-use 3D graphics effects.

• Better text handling for more sophisticated layouts combining words and graphics, more refined typography, and better multilingual applications.

• Better sound handling, so that different audio signals can be mixed together--for example, a music sound track with a game's audio effects.

• High-performance visual effects using technology called Pixel Bender that also works with After Effects CS4 and Photoshop CS4.

• Better abilities to tap into hardware acceleration.

• Adaptable video streaming that can adjust to changing network throughput.

Flash Player is a key part of Adobe's push to make Web-based applications more powerful. Adobe's Flex framework can be used to create applications that run on the Flash Player or as standalone computer applications running on AIR, the Adobe Integrated Runtime.

Flash and Silverlight aren't the only ways to make these so-called rich Internet applications, though. Silverlight, which drafts off Microsoft's strong developer base and its .Net programming technology, is a newer competitor. And JavaScript is growing up as a way to build more elaborate interfaces in Web applications. Flash, however, enjoys a very broad adoption, and users upgrade to the newer versions relatively swiftly.

Flash Player 10 also is used within Adobe's Creative Suite 4, a broad range of applications including Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Premiere that just began shipping. Because control panels are written with Flash technology, CS4 menus can be extended by third parties more easily, and Adobe plans to release a Configurator by the end of the month that will make it easy to create custom control panels.

Update 11:25 a.m. PDT: One big Pixel Bender fan is online photo editing site Picnik. Flash Player 10 speeds the site and enables "mind-blowing effects." It also means third parties can create effects of their own using the Pixel Bender technology. See some examples below.

"Future plans with Flash Player 10 include the addition of super high‐resolution photo capabilities, more sophisticated editing features, and the ability to load and save photos without involving an upload to a server," Picnik said Wednesday.

One special effect enabled by Flash Player 10 on Picnik's online photo editing site.
One special effect enabled by Flash Player 10 on Picnik's online photo editing site. Picnik

Another Flash Player 10 effect in Picnik.
Another Flash Player 10 effect in Picnik. Picnik