Adobe released its eagerly anticipated whitepaper outlining the future direction of Flash and AIR. With the desktop Flash Player fighting a losing battle against HTML5, and the mobile player dead, it’s no real surprise that Adobe has decided to focus on gaming and the deployment of premium video.

Personally I think this is a good move and really the only option available currently. While the aim is to secure Flash’s future for the next decade, the paper outlines the general roadmap for the first two years, and there are some really welcome things planned. Also, the whitepaper does state that although gaming and video are now the focus, it does not mean that Flash should not be used to create content of other types.

If you want to see the full list of proposed features then take a look at the whitepaper, however here are a few that I’m personally pleased to see on the horizon:

  • Mouse lock support
  • Hardware accelerated graphics support for iOS and Android
  • Low-latency audio support
  • Ability to progressively stream Stage3D textures
  • Concurrent ActionScript execution of seperate threads
  • Support for advanced profiling
  • Improved ActionScript performance when targeting iOS
  • ActionScript 4

For me that’s a very exciting list of things, unfortunately, some won’t be available until 2013. Two such features are the ActionScript performance improvements for iOS, and a new version of ActionScript. As you know, ActionScript 3 has been around since 2006 and has seen no significant updates in that time, so the prospect of a new version is mouthwatering. The next version of ActionScript will be designed with performance in mind, and additionally, it looks like Adobe may attempt to make the language more accessible. Here’s a quote from the whitepaper:

Performance is the primary goal when we approach how to evolve ActionScript. Second, Adobe aims to increase developer productivity by simplifying the language, improving tool support, and boosting bug prevention.

As someone who is increasingly focussing on AIR for iOS, the ActionScript performance improvements really can’t come quick enough. The advanced profiling features are also going to be invaluable for anyone trying to squeeze as much performance as possible from mobile.

While most of what is written is very positive I was a little concerned about the statement regarding Native Extensions for AIR. Here’s what Adobe had to say:

While desktop and mobile-specific APIs will be developed, they will not be the primary focus for Adobe AIR development efforts. Developers requiring functionality not available directly via Adobe AIR APIs should consider adding that functionality via the native extensibility API.

So it looks like Adobe will continue to write mobile-specific APIs but what about platform-specific APIs such as In-App Purchasing, Game Center, MapKit etc for iOS? I’m aware that some of these APIs are already available from third-party developers but I really do hope that Adobe put some effort into providing many of these APIs along with AIR.

I understand the goal is one of cross-platform, but for many, including myself, I really only have an interest in a single platform for the time being. I’m not particularly fussed if some of these APIs aren’t cross platform, and to be honest, I can always just use conditional compilation to work across such issues if I decide to eventually target other mobile platforms.

To create the best applications possible on iOS, I (and I suspect many other developers too) need AIR to provide some more iOS-specific APIs, even if doing so goes against Adobe’s cross-platform mantra. Can’t we just have an extensions.ios and package structure for such things? Just a thought, and I appreciate Adobe has limited resources.

On the whole though, lots of things to look forward to. Take a look at the whitepaper if you haven’t already done so.