Why Flash Will Be Just Fine

I've just realised that an email reply I wrote on the FlashMedia List would actually make a good blog post. I wrote it in response to someone pointing once again to the death of Flash, brought up by mobile and HTML5.

Actually I see emerging platforms as a big opportunity for Flash, not a threat. Why was Flash successful in the first place? Cross platform consistency.

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Flash Advanced Echo Cancellation Has Arrived - Flash Player 10.3 Beta

Adobe have just released the beta version of Flash Player 10.3 which you can download from the Adobe Labs website.

The major feature in this version - especially if you are building real-time collaborative applications - is the advanced echo cancellation (AEC). Developers can now take advantage of acoustic echo cancellation, noise suppression, voice activity detection, and automatic compensation for various microphone input levels. End users will be able to experience higher quality audio to aid conversation flow, without using a headset.

Most of these features can be accessed via the new flash.media.MicrophoneEnhancedMode and flash.media.MicrophoneEnhancedOptions classes which contain properties to control the way that the Microphone instance enhances audio, suppresses echos and so on. The API docs (.zip) are here.

This beta version is currently available for desktop operating systems, with support for mobile and AIR following soon.

Another great enhancement for end users is the native control panel which allows you to manage Flash Player privacy, security and storage settings on Windows, Mac, and Linux directly from the Control Panels or System Preferences on your computer. I love this feature as the Settings Manager used by previous versions of Flash Player was a usability nightmare. I also think that Flash Player looks muchmore grown up now that it's sporting its own settings panel in the System preferences. A great improvement.

Check out the full release notes and other new features here.


Flash Player 10.2 Is Out

Adobe have officially released Flash Player 10.2 for Windows, Mac and Linux.
This release brings a range of performance improvements and feature enhancements. Worth pointing out is Stage Video, a full hardware accelerated video pipeline that improves video playback performance across platforms and browsers by separating the video playback from the DisplayList and offloading rendering to the GPU (where supported).
Additionally, this version of Flash Player offers all the new capabilities previewed in the beta release, like custom native mouse cursors, multiple monitor full-screen support, Internet Explorer 9 hardware accelerated rendering support, and enhanced sub-pixel rendering for much improved text readability.

Install Flash Player 10.2 now or to grab the debug release version go to this page.


My Answers To Gruber's Questions

Argh, Tim Anderson tricked me into reading a post on daringfireball... As expected, what I saw wound me up. In the post John Gruber has some 'questions', and since I highly doubt that Google feels that they owe him a personal explanation I'll take a stab at the answers here (Gruber's blog does not allow comments).

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Flash Player Camera Issues On OSX About To Be Fixed

If you work with applications that utilise the webcam in Flash you may have noticed some recently introduced issues with some Apple iSight cameras on Mac OSX. The problem described in this bug report has been reported fairly widely and has frustrated many. For some users the uninstall of the 'Google Camera Adapter' resolved things, for others the recent Skype Beta seemed to be the culprit. The problem first emerged with flash Player version 10.1.102.64

Now there is good news. The problem has reportedly been fixed in the release candidate 10.2 of Flash Player which is available now on Adobe Labs. I recommend you upgrade now.


Google Removes H.264 Support From Chrome

It has only been a few minutes since the news of Google removing support for the H.264 video codec from Chrome in favour of WebM, a codec that Google open-sourced after their acquisition of On2, has been making the rounds. Is this significant? I guess it depends who you ask, but Chrome is certainly a browser that's quickly gaining traction, and rightly so.
I personally have seen very few videos in H.264 on the web that were *not* played back in Flash. Since Flash (as well as other plugins) will of course still be supported in Chrome there is always that option (with the notable exception of Apple's iDevices of course since none of those support Flash or indeed other browser plugins).

Adobe have already publicly committed to supporting WebM in Flash, and joined Google alongside many other companies on the WebM project. A notable exception on that list is of course Apple, an avid supporter of H.264. But it remains to be seen if Google's decision has any real implications in the short term. Things would look differently if YouTube was to stop encoding videos to H.264 and 'force' anyone wanting to play back new videos using a platform or browser that supports WebM.

Another party not to be pleased is undoubtedly MPEG-LA, the organisation responsible for setting and collecting licensing fees for H.264. Let's not forget: despite what Apple would like you to believe, H.264 is neither open nor free, and many companies including Adobe pay huge sums (millions I assume) to MPEG-LA in order to be able to add the H.264 decoder to Flash Player and other tools. And as John Dowdell confirmed, "when I've asked, I've heard 'millions' quoted for redistribution licensing as well." No small change then.

What does this mean for Flash? It could solidify its position as the safe bet for video playback on the web. There is little chance of Adobe removing support for H.264, and they are definitely adding WebM.

In the long run I'm not sure if Flash will remain the primary choice for video playback on the web. But as long as the rest of the landscape is in such a mess I cannot see it going away anytime soon. My prediction is that we will still see a lot of Flash based video being deployed in 10 years from now.


Advanced Echo Cancellation Coming 'Next Year'

Thibault Imbert, Flash Player Product Manager at Adobe, has now confirmed that Advanced Echo Cancellation (AEC) is coming to Flash next year. Thibault stated in this JIRA ticket:
"Hi guys,
Yes, AEC is coming and you saw it in the docs ;)
It is implemented and tested, and available soon. I cannot give you a date for now, but it will be next year.
Thibault"

That's great news and it confirms what some of us have been hearing for some time. The docs for AEC and a new class called a href="http://help.adobe.com/en_US/FlashPlatform/beta/reference/actionscript/3/flash/media/MicrophoneEnhancedMode.html" target=_blank">MicrophoneEnhancedMode are already available but AEC is not yet part of the current 10.2 beta drop of Flash Player which is now up on labs.


Using 'Air Display' iPad App To Aid Flash iOS Development

A few days ago my mini-display to DVI adapter that connects my external display to my iMac stopped working. Whilst waiting for a replacement I wondered if my iPad could act as a secondary display in the meantime. If you are like me then you will feel as if one of your arms has been cut off when you have to work on a single display - it feels totally inadequate despite a size of 27" :-)

A few minutes after posting a question about such a setup on Twitter I had received several recommendations for an app called Air Display (not to be confused with Adobe AIR, it has nothing to do with that at all). I bought the app and tried it - it turns out that it works very well indeed and is also great to test some basic touch screen interactions, especially if you develop Flash applications for mobile. I also recorded the following short video to quickly demo the setup. If you have any questions please post them below in the comments.


Having Fun With Flash and iPad

I know I should be doing 'proper' work but right now I am having way too much fun playing with the Flash CS5 iOS packager. Two days ago I started porting my Just Letters game (yes, that old chestnut) to iPad and I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was, even after deciding to rewrite the game in plain AS3 (plus a few graphical assets which I packaged into a .swc file). In total it must have taken me only 4 - 6 hours before the game was running on the iPad, and this included the logic for the NetConnection and ShareObject syncs.

But the point of this post isn't about the game, it's about how much fun Flash suddenly is again. The combination of AS3, RTMP and a tablet form factor is magical just great, and I've already got a few ideas for some further, more useful applications.

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Multicast Chat Across Devices and Platforms

In preparation for my session at Streaming Media Europe in a couple of weeks I had a play with the IP multicast feature in Flash today. Tom Krcha posted an excellent example on his blog a few months ago which demos this feature very well.
It's worth pointing out that this code works in a LAN setup, not over the public internet. This also means that Cirrus (aka Stratus) is not required for the P2P introduction - Flash Player can handle this itself on a multicast enabled LAN. Therefore you can try this using the devices on your local network, but not with your friends elsewhere on the net.

I wanted to try Tom's example on my iPad and Nexus One. The phone was easy since it can run Flash Player 10.1 and Tom's example app worked fine there. But what about the iPad?
Since I have got an Apple iOS developer account I am able to use the iPhone packaging feature in Flash CS5 to build iPhone and iPad applications. All I needed to do was to port Tom's Flex example to Flash as using the Flex framework on a device is not the best thing to do - at least not until themobile-optimised Hero SDK ships.

This blog post is therefore just a record to say: it worked and it worked well. Porting took only half an hour, and I then spent another half hour fine tuning a few bits and pieces, nothing major. The photo shows the app running on my Windows 7 netbook, the Nexus One and the iPad. I also had it running on my iMac and in the Flash IDE.

Say what you want about Flash on devices, there's something very cool about getting your code to run so easily in so many places. And remember this app now not only spans devices but also platforms and even runtimes since the iPad app is practically AIR based.

You can download my Flash app including sources here, but note that you need an iOS developer account to compile and install it on an iDevice.


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