Flash Player 10.1 – Installations and updates

Flash Player 10.1 will become available in the first half of 2010 for all supported platforms.  In fact, the desktop beta 3 is already looking incredible and proving to be a huge hit with developers testing their content.

One of the most important parts of our work with our Open Screen Project OEM partners is to enable the seamless discovery, installation and update of Flash Player 10.1 on device platforms.  I know that some have asked questions on this, and so I’m glad to bring you some responses, if a little late.

Extending the reach

In the “marketecture” diagram below you can see that Flash Player 10.1 is extending it’s platform reach, doubling it in fact.  It’s worth noting that recent reports around minimum spec’s for Flash Player 10.1 are alluded to here also, because working with our partners, we are targeting the latest chipsets available.

To explain, smartphones have a typical lifespan that is less than half that of a desktop computer, and so hardware choices are made by planning for the future.  Over the past few years we have shipped over 1.5Billion devices with Flash Lite using this simple rule.

Therefore the choice to target the ARM Cortex-A8 chipsets will result in greater efficiency, and most importantly a wider range of consistent experiences as uptake grows.  To be clear, that uptake is already happening, and it will expand rapidly just like it does every other year.

It’s like a Moore’s Law of mobile phones :-)

Yet some devices will not be able to support the full Flash Player 10.1 due to low hardware capabilities, and for many of those devices we have a new version of our optimized runtime, Flash Lite, to fill the gap.  In fact the alpha version has already been spotted running Farmville on Android Eclair here.

Driving the Distribution

Working with our OEM partners we have enabled the Flash Player to be installed in a manner consistent with the desktop experience.  When visiting websites that have Flash content, users can click on the “Flash Player required” images/links provided by content developers to begin the installation process.

As with the desktop, the browser then redirects to the Flash Player Download Center, and in the case of mobile phones we pass these requests to the requisite device application stores such as the Android Market.  Today’s application stores have extended abilities to correctly identify devices, and to manage the update of applications and plugins like Flash Player.  Users can of course visit their application store directly if they wish.

In addition, those users purchasing new devices from a retailer may already have Flash Player pre-installed, made available in over-the-air software updates or through the browser directly.

Delivering Enhancements

As with the desktop install process, with each version of the Flash Player various updates are applied throughout it’s lifetime to ensure a high level of quality.  Users can expect these updates to be provided automatically on some platforms via their application store update process, as well as through over-the-air software updates.

In the example above you can see the update notifications that users are familiar with on Android devices, and it is expected that this will be used for Flash Player 10.1 during it’s lifetime.  Though I should point out that Nokia have been providing their own update mechanism, directly in the browser for some time now with a huge user uptake.

During the past few days Palm have also begun to lay the ground for Flash Player 10.1 support by delivering their software update.

Player Detection

On the desktop today developers use a combination of methods to detect the Flash Player and version.  Recognizing the need for a consistent approach, these same methods can be used on mobile phones in the future.  Adobe recommends SWFObject2, an open source project that provides cross-browser support.  It is also supported fully within our Creative Suite tools.  SWFObject works across browsers and device platforms to detect the Flash Player and it’s version.  Should an update been required, the tool can enable the ExpressInstall experience or provide fallbacks as required.

Historically I know some have invested considerable time and energy in device databases such as WURFL, which helped us to accurately distribute application installers to devices.  With Flash Player 10.1 we need only be concerned about the browser use case, and so I would argue that we do not need to continue this effort long term.

I hope this information will help you build a picture of the huge efforts that our engineering and product teams have made.  The mechanisms for discovery, install and update of the Flash Player 10.1 are a fantastic achievement, even though for some of you these may seem rather obvious.

With the Open Screen Project partners we are literally changing the ecosystem, enabling a more complete and consistent web experience on devices, and driving the industry forward with the Flash Platform in 2010.