This Past Tuesday, Adobe released an updated version of Flash Player 10, featuring the highly anticipated ‘Stage Video’ hardware acceleration. As the controversy surrounding the aging web standard is now universally known, Adobe has reworked Flash 10.2 in an attempt to quell some of the negative feelings towards the plugin. Bashed in the past for its rampant CPU usage and an insatiable appetite for notebook batteries, Flash Player 10.2—while not fully resolving them—improves both of these issues.Through its implementation of Stage Video, Adobe reports Flash videos will support smoother playback with considerably less CPU usage. On the Flash Team’s blog, developer Tom Nguyen writes:

“Stage Video lets websites take advantage of full hardware acceleration of the entire video pipeline. This builds on the H.264 hardware accelerated decoding in Flash Player 10.1. Stage Video hardware acceleration means that Flash Player can play even higher quality video while using dramatically less processing power, giving users a better experience, greater performance, and longer battery life. In our testing across supported systems, we’ve found it’s up to 34 times more efficient.”

Nguyen expands on Stage Video claiming it can support 1080p HD video playback using a mere 1-15% of the CPU on a current Mac or PC. While this is an impressive performance leap for the picked on plugin, Nguyen is quick to add the performance boost may not be immediately apparent. While the player is capable of processing HD video at the reported stats, websites and content providers, such as YouTube, will first need to rework their players around the new standard.

Though the Flash Player is still far from perfect, the release of 10.2 demonstrates that Adobe is actively responding to the critiques voiced by Steve Jobs and others on its aging infrastructure and less than desirable performance. For all intents and purposes, Flash Player 10.2 is a sizable leap in terms of streaming HD video playback technology. Though it may not be around forever, until HTML5 receives more widespread support, Flash will have to do.

It is worth noting that Adobe has dropped support for Power PC Macs in version 10.2. The update mandates at least an Intel Core Duo 1.33GHz processor or faster. In addition, the update requires at least 256MB of RAM and Mac OS X 10.4-10.6. For a full list of system requirements click here.

To download Flash 10.2 click here.