During a keynote at the Flashforward 2003 show here last week, Macromedia Chief Software Architect Kevin Lynch unveiled a new product for using Flash applications offline.
The product, Macromedia Central, is part of a strategy to extend Flash beyond an Internet-connected Web browser, Lynch said.
Macromedia Central is the first in a series of planned product releases to support this goal, said sources familiar with Macromedia's plans. An upcoming release of the Macromedia Flash Player, expected later this year, will offer enhanced offline capability, the sources said.
Macromedia Flash is known as a tool for building rich multimedia content for Web sites. Since Macromedia made the MX version of Flash available in March 2002, the application has emerged as a tool for building business applications that can run in the widely distributed Flash Player, solution providers said.
Macromedia Central is installed using the Macromedia Flash Player through a browser and then runs offline on a local client, Lynch said. With Macromedia Central, users and developers can view multiple applications at the same time, use the applications in conjunction with each other or move information from one application to the next.
Applications in Macromedia Central can communicate using the SOAP and WSDL standards for Web services, Lynch said.
Macromedia Central creates a new distribution channel for Flash developers, enabling them to include in the environment Flash applications they have created, Lynch said. Users and other developers can then download those applications for a fee set by the developer, which will receive 80 percent of the revenue while Macromedia takes 20 percent, he said.
Macromedia Central is free, and versions for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows are expected to be available this summer, Lynch said. A beta software development kit is slated to be available in April.
IDC estimated that 507 million Web users had access to the Flash Player as of December 2002. In addition, NPD Group reported that 98 percent of Internet users had access to Flash content by the end of last year.
Darryl Gehly, vice president of corporate development at Boston-based solution provider Molecular, said about 1 Mbyte of Flash content currently can run offline in Flash Player.
"The whole idea of online and offline applications that are distributed over the Internet gives you tremendous reach with applications that run on any platform," Gehly said.