WHY YOU NEED FLASH ON YOUR TABLET – AND HOW YOU CAN GET IT WITH GPUS

by Neil Trevett

Being able to access the Internet on a mobile device is a wonderful thing – there is nothing like having a connection to the sum of all human knowledge in the palm of your hand. But users of today’s smartphones will tell you that that the mobile web is not living up to its promise. Many sites just don’t work, much of the rich video content on the web remains inaccessible, and don’t even try to play a hot game like Farmville. There’s a reason for much of this mobile web dysfunction – the lack of Adobe Flash Player.

Adobe Flash allows web sites to combine high-quality scalable graphics and streaming video into compelling interactive web applications. But most mobile devices can’t support Flash. When you consider that Flash is used in 87% of web sites and used to stream 80% of online videos, a Flash-less mobile web is a pretty pale shadow of the real thing. Fortunately, that situation is changing thanks to work by both NVIDIA and Adobe to make sure mobile consumers get the real web – in all its glory.

To see how impoverished the mobile web can be without Flash, take just one example: gaming. Flash-based games such as Farmville, Bejeweled and Mafia Wars are played by millions of people every day. Since launching in June 2009, Farmville has become the most popular game application on Facebook, with over 75 million active users alone in January 2010. But right now these games cannot be played in their full versions on mobile devices – this injustice must be righted!

There’s a simple reason that, up to this point, Flash-based content hasn’t worked well on mobile devices. Flash traditionally uses the CPU to render graphics and video content. But today’s rich content taxes even high-end CPUs. (You might have noticed your desktop video stutter or your laptop fan turning when you play Flash titles.) CPUs just aren’t designed for intensive graphics and video. The situation gets worse when you go mobile. Mobile CPUs don’t have enough horsepower to display rich content. And even if they could, they would suck your battery dry while trying.

But GPUs are designed to effortlessly accelerate graphics and video while consuming just a fraction of the power used by a typical CPU. With Flash Player 10.1, NVIDIA and Adobe have ported and optimized the visually intensive parts of the Flash pipeline onto GPUs. For the first time, the full desktop Flash Player can run on mobile devices with graphics acceleration.

NVIDIA Tegra not only has the raw graphic and video processing performance to drive complex Flash content onto high-resolution tablets displays, but it also has the architectural flexibility to accelerate the internal mixing and blending of the multiple graphics and video elements in a typical Flash application. This makes Tegra the first processor to offload the complete Flash pipeline onto the GPU – dramatically improving performance while preserving battery power.

This year, the new wave of Tegra-powered tablets will arrive, able to run Adobe Flash Player 10.1 in the Android browser. This new generation of devices will enable tablets to fulfill their promise of being the best web browsing devices – no limitations and no compromises. You will be able visit all your favorite sites, such as CNN, Disney, ESPN, and Netflix; see all your favorite HD videos smoothly and stutter-free from YouTube and Hulu; and even run the full version of Farmville!

If you’re at the Mobile World Congress show this week in Barcelona, drop by the NVIDIA booth and check out Farmville on a tablet – the future has arrived!