Adobe previews Square, a 64-bit Flash plugin

Adobe released a preview version of its 64-bit Flash Player plugin, code named Square. In beta, it is available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. It also takes advantage of hardware accelerated graphics in Internet Explorer 9 Beta, announced just yesterday.

The download is available from Adobe Labs; users installing Square will have to manually update it on their own. It is also not stable, the company warns, and users are urged to “use caution” in production environments. The plugin works with Flash Play 10.1.

Adobe had declared 64-bit Flash as a priority back in June. While not a surprise, this is a major transition for Web developers. The 64-bit transition that started with processors years ago means more users are running 64-bit machines and operating systems. Although 32-bit software runs on 64-bit operating systems, a 32-bit plug-in will not run in a 64-bit browser. Since JavaScript performance notably improves on 64-bit machines, browsers are making the jump to 64-bit, so other applications have to follow suit.

Adobe came under fire earlier this year when it withdrew a test version of 64-bit Flash for Linux that it had released in 2008.

The Windows plugin taps into a computer’s graphics chip power when used on the new IE9 beta. Hardware acceleration speeds up how graphics are displayed. For Flash specifically, it means a faster and more responsive user experience with Flash-based movies.

In a blog posting late yesterday, Adobe claimed “significant improvements in Flash Player graphics performance – exceeding 35 per cent in Internet Explorer 9 Beta compared to Flash Player running in previous versions of IE.”

It’s not yet clear how well Square will deal with hardware acceleration on Mac OS X. Apple’s Steve Jobs have loudly and often complained that Flash is a CPU hog.

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