Macromedia Flexes Muscle

First, the company is updating the nearly ubiquitous Flash Player for playing Web-based, multimedia applications. Version 8.5 incorporates a new virtual machine for faster performance and error reporting, better debugging and an ECMAScript-compliant scripting engine. That combination should provide a higher least-common denominator for applications, said Jeff Whatcott, Macromedia&s vice president of product management.

The San Francisco-based company is also breaking out a new Eclipse-based Flex IDE, code-named Zorn. The IDE will be available in a tiered series of offerings, starting at less than $1,000. The price of the current full Dreamweaver-based Flex toolkit is $15,000 per CPU.

Perhaps most important for VARs seeking to graft glitzy Web front ends onto legacy applications, Macromedia is beefing up Flex Enterprise Services, adding realtime communications and connectivity to major message queuing technologies. Those services will be priced on a per-CPU basis.

Alpha versions of Flex Builder 2 and Flash Player 8.5 will be available for download on Oct. 17 at Macromedia&s MAX 2005 developers conference in Anaheim, Calif. The products are expected to be generally available in the second half of next year.

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Allurent, a Cambridge, Mass., ISV partner, is building its Internet commerce and shopping applications atop the new Flex foundation. “The big thing here is they&ve made it suitable for enterprise applications and data messaging. To be able to provide true client-server-type applications [on the Web] is big,” said Fumi Matsumoto, CTO.

“A lot of the more recent micro-sites typically done in Flash and even Flex are great—very immersive,” he said.

Allurent, comprising several former Art Technology Group executives, cast its lot with Macromedia&s new tools because of their strength and because there really are no cross-platform alternatives, Matsumoto said. “Microsoft&s toolset won&t be there for a while. Their stuff is fine for Windows applications, but there&s other software out there,” he said.