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3/30/2006
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DreamFactory Brings Power To The Browser

Startup extends interactive features of CD-ROMs and games into a lightweight front end for Web apps

DreamFactory Software doesn't strike everyone as emblematic of the next wave of Web computing. But under the covers, this 10-person company contains a lot of the ingredients that will make future Web applications sizzle.

For one thing, it's got Bill Appleton as CTO. He's an expert in computer graphics, animation, and user interfaces. Appleton is the author of WorldBuilder, one of the first game-building programming languages, which, as far back as 1986, allowed point-and-click interactions with game scenes. An example of his work can be found on one of the world's best-selling multimedia CD-ROMs, "Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time," a CyberFlix production from when he was president of the company.

Custom apps aren't just a dream.

Custom apps aren't just a dream.
DreamFactory's product, which goes by the same name, extends the interactive features of CD-ROMs and games into a lightweight user front end for Web applications. It can populate a browser window with many kinds of interactive features, including drag and drop, sliders, and buttons. More important, DreamFactory is a lightweight download to an Internet user's computer, just half a megabyte of code to get its interactive features to work in a browser window.

"We're a little different. We can produce hard-core applications that couldn't be written in Ajax, Java, or .Net," Appleton says.

One of DreamFactory's first customers was Salesforce.com, which offers DreamFactory's SBuilder browser tools as a way to customize Salesforce applications. With SBuilder, a Salesforce customer can pull data out of a local database and display it alongside the data supplied by the Salesforce database. Software as a service typically treats users to a one-size-fits-all approach, and SBuilder helped Salesforce overcome that limitation. Similarly, SBuilder can be used to integrate the services on StrikeIron's Web Services Marketplace, such as sales tax calculation and address verification, with Salesforce apps.

In the Web of the future, users will regain power with more direct interaction with Web site apps, rather than engineering responses around force-fed HTML pages.

DreamFactory plans to double the number of its employees by the end of this year. It already has moved beyond providing tools for modifying Salesforce apps to supplying its own applications, offering DreamTeam, which lets sales reps collaborate on creating documents, setting up a shared calendar, and managing a project together. When Salesforce established AppExchange, in which third parties offer apps that work alongside Salesforce's, DreamTeam became its most popular download.

DreamFactory enhances the power of a browser so that it ceases to be a blank slate, filled by some distant server. Instead, inside the browser window, the DreamFactory-enabled user interface empowers the user by formulating demands and creating powerful events. Web applications of the future may be listening to those events and responding.

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