Adobe and Nvidia bring GPU computing to the masses

Adobe and Nvidia bring GPU computing to the masses

Summary: Adobe and Nvidia announced that the next version of the Flash player will take advantage of Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) to improve online video. Adobe Flash Player 10.


Adobe and Nvidia announced that the next version of the Flash player will take advantage of Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) to improve online video. Adobe Flash Player 10.1, which will be in beta by the end of this year, will be designed to get a boost from Nvidia's GeForce, Ion and Tegra chips.

Netbooks and nettops based on the Ion platform will benefit from Flash 10.1, since online video is an area where Intel's Atom platform currently falls short. But the new player, the first released under Adobe's Open Screen Project, is part of a broader effort to have a consistent browser-based Flash runtime that works across all devices from PCs running Windows, Mac OS or Linux to smartphones. Adobe also announced it would release the Flash 10.1 runtime for Windows Mobile, Palm's webOS, Android, Symbian, and eventually BlackBerry (the iPhone is still missing). Smartphones using Nvidia's Tegra will also get the GPU acceleration.

The benefits for smartphones are pretty clear--they don't even support Flash today. But what do laptops and Ion-based netbooks, which run Windows and Flash and can play 720p video, get out of it? Using the GPU to handle video playback should reduce the load on the CPU, and ensure smooth HD video playback, even on budget laptops and netbooks that struggle with those intensive tasks.

Last week, I spent a couple of days at Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference, and it was clear that the company has made a lot of inroads with GPU computing for the sorts of high-performance applications in universities, medical research, oil and gas exploration, and finance. But its efforts to promote the GPU as a co-processor for consumer applications are really just getting going. Applications such as Elemental Technologies Badaboom, MotionDSP's vReveal and Cyberlink's PowerDirector 8 have been around for a while. Adobe Photoshop CS4, which has been shipping for about a year, has several "Accelerated Canvas" features that use the GPU to improve the responsiveness of the program when working with large images. But a Flash runtime with GPU acceleration should make the benefits of GPU computing, on certain tasks, more obvious to millions of users.

Whether they'll be using Ion netbooks, however, remains to be seen. HP is the only major company currently shipping an Ion netbook, the Mini 311. The Lenovo IdeaPad S12 and Samsung N510 are now scheduled to ship sometime after the Windows 7 launch on October 22. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang told the UK-based reviews site that Intel was trying to "suffocate" Ion, but the technology will continue to exist because it helps computer companies to differentiate their netbooks.

The Mini 311 has yet to receive the full review treatment, but earlier today Laptop Magazine posted some early test results, which look very good, but I'm waiting for the battery life results to reach a verdict on Ion.

Topics: Mobility, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Processors

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What about Intel and AMD?

    So Adobe is quietly ignoring everyone with Intel or AMD video GPU's? Sounds like Nvidia is trying to drive sales in smaller devices this way. Exclusive deal with Adobe maybe?
  • Adobe Flash requires ridiculous and unjustified amounts of CPU

    And it's the worst with Flash 10. Seriously, just because modern CPUs have insane amounts of power doesn't mean Flash needs to use it all just to play a video.

    How is it that a Pentium II can play DVD MPEG2 videos full screen, all software decoded, and even software stretched, at a full 30 FPS with CPU to spare.... and that same CPU will get about 5 FPS at best with Flash video using Adobe Flash 10?

    Not that anybody is using a Pentium II as their main machine these days, but the point stands. Come on Adobe, that's just unforgivable. If you were to put Flash 8 on that same machine, it'll play fine. (Still using an amazingly huge amount of CPU, but it still plays okay.)

    Whenever Adobe buys out a software product and begins their own development on it, it gets 10x more bloated, 10x slower, and without much gain in features. Adobe is a joke, IMO.
    • Couldnt agree more

      youre totally right about this.
    • I Agree

      Flash is an abomination!

      The sooner someone comes up with a superior system, the better.

  • Similar announced in June

    Adobe please support the va-api interface for Linux.
    Richard Flude
  • Recent Announcements

    Flash for mobile has made some massive performance and memory optimizations in Flash Player 10.1. Some where between 1/2 the memory usage, 1 to 7x faster. etc
  • Ridiculous

    What GPU power do you need to play a stupid video, even 1080i or 1080p resolution plays fine in 2 year old computers.

    You wont notice any difference anyway.
    • Are you kidding?

      In the live demo the video in Flash Player 10 looked like a slideshow. In Flash Player 10.1 it played full speed 20 to 30fps. I'm not sure what planet u r on mr heckler but around here only your top of the line $3500 laptops can play 1080p HD video. What Flash has done is nothing short of amazing.
  • Too many exploits for Adobe Flash player

    This will probably make IT's job even harder since more devices will need patching on a continuous basis. It's getting to the point that Adobe Flash player and Adobe Reader need patching almost at the same rate as Microsoft products.
    • It would be the same rate...

      Adobe flash & acrobat would need patches at the same rate as Microsoft's products... if Adobe could actually get a patch out in a decent amount of time.

      The really sad part of Adobe's security woes is that it's only TWO products...