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Adobe releases Flash for Mac beta with GPU acceleration

updated 08:50 pm EDT, Wed April 28, 2010

Adobe Flash Gala does hardware decode on Macs

Adobe tonight released Gala, its first-ever version of Flash for the Mac with GPU-based hardware acceleration. The release takes advantage of Mac OS X 10.6.3's hardware video decoding API to offload the work of decoding H.264 to the graphics chipset rather than the main processor. The change both eases the strain on the system and helps battery life on notebooks by moving tasks to the more power-efficient GPU.

The test release currently requires a modern NVIDIA video core, including the GeForce 9400M on the older unibody MacBooks, present-day Mac minis and certain iMacs; newer MacBook Pros using the GeForce 320M or GT 330M also accelerate video. It shouldn't require special usage patterns but currently displays a small square in the corner to indicate when GPU acceleration is active.

Gala should be finished sometime after the launch of Flash 10.1 on other platforms, which is still on track to arrive within the first half of the year.

While slightly delayed, the release helps catch Macs up to Windows PCs in the beta stage and should significantly streamline HD video playback in Flash, especially on systems with slower processing such as the MacBook Air or Mac mini. A number of Windows netbook and tablet makers are counting on Flash 10.1 to enable HD on their PCs by using hardware from Broadcom and NVIDIA to take the burden from the otherwise too-slow Intel Atom.


By Electronista Staff


  1. dagamer34

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2007



    What about ATI cards in the new iMacs? O_o

  1. Useless Message Poster

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2010



    "What about ATI cards in the new iMacs?"

    You're out of luck...

    NVIDIA GeForce 9400M
    GeForce 320M
    GeForce GT 330M

    That is per the link above to the Adobe web site

  1. chas_m



    Early Days Yet!

    dagamer, don't worry too much ... Gala will eventually support more cards and chipsets. This is a TEST release, not the final.

    The important thing to learn from this story is that The Apple-Adobe War is nearing its end, and Adobe lost (though actually this will end up being a big win for them).

    Apple successfully brought pressure to bear on Adobe to pick up the (very considerable) slack in Mac flash development. Apple has been trying to get parity with the PC version of Flash for about a DECADE now.

    Only when Apple finally played hardball and threatened to develop, encourage and generally foster alternatives did Adobe finally get off their lazy a** and start working on optimizing Flash for the Mac.

    This is great news for Mac users, who will FINALLY (eventually) get parity with Windows users on Flash performance. It's also (in the end) great news for Adobe -- they've given themselves one less reason to be passed over in favour of competition, and more reasons for creative Mac people to continue to invest in Flash technology.

    Now if they'll get with the program and come up with a version of Flash that is as lean and mean as HTML5, they might just find themselves a future on the two biggest mobile devices in the world ...

  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2001


    What about non-H.264 files?

    Even a simply slide-show in Flash will eat up over half of your CPU capability. This might help in some of the misuse of Flash as a video container, but doesn't really get to the core of the problem.

  1. Mike Richardson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2009


    This doesn't help older Macs

    Newer Macs are at least fast enough to be able to run Flash without help from the GPU. Older Macs, like PPCs and even first-gen Intels struggle to play 720p Flash video (where the same video plays fine in VLC).

  1. JeffHarris

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Too Little, Too Late!

    Sorry, Adobe, your Flash trash is on the decline.

  1. Nixtr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2010


    cue pat Benatar

    "Little Too Late" plays on an ipod through earbuds in the background as Jobsy strolls from his Mercedes into the HTML5 meeting with his army of programmers.

  1. JulesLt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2005


    Flash vs HTML 5 performance

    Steve W - install 10.1 now, and you will see huge improvements in Flash CPU performance for non-video work (i.e. slideshows, animation, games, etc) - some of this is already using GPU acceleration - it's only the low-level H264 video API they were waiting for.

    It's still possible for badly coded SWF files to use a lot of CPU (if the developer does a lot of redundant work in a fast event loop), but the number of times BashFlash lights up red is vastly reduced, even with 20 tabs open and people's junky myspace pages.

    Mike - at least part of the reason why VLC does a lot better is that it's a standalone program, not a browser plugin (which adds an overhead).

    As for HTML 5/CSS3/etc - from what I've seen of Canvas and CSS/SVG animation there isn't a lot in it - i.e. any form of page animation causes redraws and uses CPU (and that, in turn, affects battery life, because it's less likely CPU power management can kick in when there is constant low level activity).
    Worse still, Browsers don't yet provide the user with any way to stop or freeze animations.

  1. stirrell

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007


    Too late?

    For the people claiming that this improvement comes too late, tell that to Apple who just opened up these APIs for Adobe to use (which they quickly took advantage of, I might add). I believe that Adobe has been asking for this ability from Apple for some time.

  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: Jan 2008


    All things considered...

    Apple's "F-U" to Flash on iPhones certainly lit a fire under Adobe's arse on Flash development. Once it became apparent that iPhone's booming sales were not suffering without Flash, Adobe saw the writing on the wall. Nothing quite like the face of obsolescence looking you straight on to get you focused!

    I've read more about what they plan to do for Flash as well as seen more betas and rc's on the player & the main program in the last year than I have the combined number of years Adobe has owned the rights. Let's hope this new determination by Adobe DOES result in better overall performance for Mac and iPhone users.


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