Narain is the founder & CEO for 360 Degree Interactive, a web services firm based in Chennai, India. This blog is about his personal views on Web 2.0, RoR, Social networking,Digital media, interactive advertising, SaaS, Service Oriented Architecture, India Inc, rural education, Web standards, mobile 2.0 and more.

Sunday, June 12

Maelstrom/8Ball - The next version of Flash

Going thru the recent documentation on Flash Platform, I was sweetly surprised to read the upcoming flash authoring & player's capabilities. The next version will be more of a design update than a programming update. As the present ActionScripting structure [AS 2.0] itself can provide a whole array of possibilities to flash coders. Here are some of the mind-boggling updates to appear in the next version.

On a sidenote, Macromedia is asking for beta testers for 8Ball [the next generation Flash player] & Maelstrom [the next generation Flash Authoring Environment [Flash MX 2006?!]] in their website.

The next major release of Flash Authoring environment, code-named Maelstrom, has significant advances in graphical expressiveness, performance, increased fidelity of font rendering and video delivery, and other new functionality — while still retaining a small download size.

Maelstrom Features

New graphical expressiveness: New graphical capabilities include a host of image effects such as drop shadows, blurs, glows, beveled highlights, color transformation and convolution, and new blending modes, all of which can be applied to any object in Flash Player and can be stacked to combine effects. Since these effects can be generated dynamically at runtime, they can be accomplished without incurring a download size penalty. A new image API enables custom effects to be created through ActionScript. Additional graphic formats are supported by Flash, including GIF, PNG, and progressive JPEG.

Improved performance: Performance of Flash Player has been increased in graphics rendering, text scrolling, component rendering, ActionScript execution, and memory management. Bitmap surfaces have been added to accelerate rendering through caching, resulting in a major performance boost in the display of complex graphical information.

Better font readability: Flash technology already enables the use of any font for text, and does not require that font to be installed on the user’s machine to display properly. It accomplishes this by converting fonts into vector graphics, which enables designers to use their choice of fonts. However, since Flash turns them into vector graphics it no longer knows they are letter shapes — this results in small fonts appearing blurry in Flash Player. Maelstrom solves this issue by including a great new font-rendering engine that enables arbitrary fonts to display crisply even at small sizes. Additional control for text layout and display has also been added,
including full justification and fine adjustment of kerning.

Enhanced video: Video is greatly enhanced in Maelstrom, with new support for VP6 video, enabling higher fidelity display at the same bitrates. In addition, a new eight-bit alpha channel has been added, enabling blending of video seamlessly on top of any other elements in Flash applications, including compositing in real time on top of other video elements. This will enable a whole new level of interactivity in video over the Internet.

New file upload and download: Maelstrom supports file upload and download capabilities, which are under full user control. A Flash application can request that a file be selected for upload by presenting an Open dialog box to the user to navigate to a file and select it. Applications can also offer to download a file by presenting a Save dialog box. This paves the way for a whole class of RIAs that can intermediate between local content on a user’s machine and the web such as web-based photo management applications that enable users to upload their photos easily.

Enhanced privacy control: Additional privacy control for local storage in Flash applications enables users to automatically block local storage by applications that originate from a domain other than that of the containing web page. For example, advertisements on web pages are typically served from an advertiser’s web server rather than the site itself. This would block storage of tracking information that might be placed by those applications.

New IME context switching: For users in countries that make use of input methods for large character sets, such as Kanji in Japan, Flash technology now supports IME context switching to help make this input more convenient by placing the input method in the correct mode for various input fields, such as numeric entry or text entry.

Woos of Microsoft

In the meantime, Microsoft is reworking on Expression, which they bought sometime ago and presenting it as Microsoft Acrylic to take the heat of Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Flash combined. Microsoft is no more in the imaging, webdevelopment business. With the open source initiatives of Office suites, Applications gaining strong foothold, Microsoft is desparately trying to launch a product which will provide them future revenues in the digital lifestyle category.

The wounds are more for Microsoft, it lost the battle in web development authoring software to Dreamweaver, lost the enterprise server segment to Apache & IBM WebSphere , lost the mid server segment to linux and losing the browser ground to Firefox and battling hard for Government orders with linux. It's time for Microsoft to reinvent themselves and fight for their marketshare for the future.


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