Macromedia's Flex Gets Stronger

Flex 1.5 "improves the fit and finish" of the Flex product, the 1.0 version, which was released in March, said Jeff Whatcott, vice president of product management at Macromedia, San Francisco.

New features in 1.5 include charting and graphing components that allow developers to include and update visual component data through the use of Web services, rather than having to build data-bound components from scratch, he said.

Flex 1.5 also gives developers greater freedom to customize the GUI of an application beyond the default look and feel provided with the server, he said.

In addition, Macromedia has added to the number of deployment platforms available for Flex.

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The product now runs on Oracle Application Server 10g and Fujitsu Interstage 6 Application Server, in addition to Macromedia JRun, BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere and Apache Tomcat application servers.

Flex 1.5 can also be deployed on IBM's AIX OS as well as Windows, Linux and Sun Solaris.

So far developers have given Flex high marks for its ability to provide the average Java developer with a tool for building rich Internet applications quickly and easily. Flex is integral to Macromedia's strategy to bypass the browser by delivering multimedia applications through the Flash player running on a client. This lets rich Internet applications run locally and avoid frequent network calls to back-end infrastructure that can affect a user's experience.

"Flex is really powerful," said Frank Dalton, rich media designer at WhittmanHart, a Chicago-based solution provider. "It brings Java and rich Internet applications together through Macromedia Flash, and really brings the power of the back end to the front end."

Macromedia sells Flex through distributor and reseller channels as well as direct. Pricing is $12,000 per two CPUs.