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Macromedia App Dev Stack Aims At Microsoft

Macromedia hopes to parlay its Flash and Flex franchises into an application development stack to rival that of superpower Microsoft.
Macromedia hopes to parlay its Flash and Flex franchises into an application development stack to rival that of superpower Microsoft.

This week Macromedia will preview its next-generation Flash player, code-named Maelstrom, due to beta this summer and slated to ship by year's end.

"Maelstrom promises to enable high-quality video, like Windows Media Player or Real Player, without having to open separate windows--video is deeply integrated into the Flash player, said David Mendels, executive vice president at the San Francisco-based company. Maelstrom also will feature advanced font rendering to boost legibility of even very small type sizes. That technology was licensed from a third party, but not Adobe Systems.

Macromedia and Adobe are slated to complete their merger this year, and the combined company could mount a threat to Microsoft.

Macromedia also has joined the Eclipse Foundation and plans to develop a new Eclipse-based IDE for building rich Internet apps for the Flash Platform.

In the planned development platform, Flex will provide Web app development, Flash MX will offer interactive content creation, Breeze offers collaborative tools, and Flash Lite furnishes mobile clients. But Flash is the core. "This nugget—that strategic, runtime, cross-platform, cross-device technology—is running on 600 million devices, 98 percent of all PCs," Mendels said. Nokia and Samsung also have licensed the Flash technology.

Few companies have faced down Microsoft in a frontal assault. Asked if Macromedia can reverse that, Mendels paused. "We cooperate with Microsoft in many areas. They make good software, but we believe cross-platform is a real advantage. If you're in a 100 percent Microsoft-only area and you know everyone is on the latest version of Microsoft, then maybe Microsoft is best for you. But if you don't know if they're on [Internet Explorer] or Firefox or Mac or Windows or a Nokia phone running Symbian, as soon as you get that world, the real world, it may not be best."

Macromedia could penetrate the enterprise, agreed Kevin Chesney, vice president of architecture at Dorado, a J2EE-centric banking ISV in San Mateo, Calif. "Flash actually gives [Macromedia] broader reach than Microsoft and certainly more browser support."

Robert Ginsburg, CTO of Version3, a VAR in Columbia, S.C., said Flex delivers rich applications over the Web, but people are not used to working a browser inside a window that does not respond to browser commands.

Flash is a lighter client, Mendels said. Windows is "hundreds of megabytes, and the next-gen Avalon [the Windows presentation layer] requires the .Net runtime—something like 25 Mbytes right now. Flash is 480 [Kbytes]. It's a very small, lightweight runtime that cuts across the universe."

This story was updated Monday afternoon with new quotes from Mendel.

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