Macromedia releases offline Flash tools

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Macromedia has released a developer edition and software development kit (SDK) for the Macromedia Central environment, tools that will enable developers to build and distribute Flash applications that run offline.

At its Macromedia MAX 2003 user conference this week in the US, Macromedia promised to make available the Developer Release of Macromedia Central and the Macromedia Central Software Development Kit, said Lea Hickman, senior director of market development at the vendor. The products will also be available for download from Macromedia's site at www.macromedia.com.

Macromedia also will unveil a deal with America Online (AOL) to build an SDK that will allow developers to create Flash applications for Macromedia Central that incorporate instant-messaging functionality from AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM) and ICQ chat applications, she 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 software has emerged as a tool for building business applications that can run in the widely distributed Flash Player, channel players said.

The developer release of Macromedia Central allows developers to build Flash applications that can be deployed and sold to customers through Central, which acts as a distribution channel managed by Macromedia, Hickman said.

Macromedia's deal with AOL is significant because it will allow developers building applications for Macromedia Central to include in those programs capability to send instant messages over AIM or ICQ networks without users creating a new user ID, Hickman said. She used the example of a Flash-based help-desk application that could use this functionality.

For developers that want to build Flash applications for deployment within Macromedia Central, there are three licensing models, Hickman said.

A 'use case' licence allows a developer to deploy an application to Macromedia Central under a free, noncommercial license if the developer is not seeking a fee for his or her applications, Hickman said.

A 'try/buy' licence allows a developer to sell a Flash application through Macromedia Central for a fee the developer sets, Hickman said. Macromedia handles the payment processing and deposits 80 percent of the fee for the application into a developer's account, taking 20 percent to pay for transaction and program fees.

Also, a capacity licence can distribute a Flash application through Macromedia Central to an enterprise. The company would pay US$20 per user each year in 100-user increments for permission to deploy a Flash application through Macromedia Central to their employees, Hickman said.

Developers wanting to develop applications for Macromedia Central can sign up through Macromedia for a product ID number. At the time they acquire the number, developers must choose which licensing model they will use for the application, said Kevin Lynch, chief software architect at Macromedia.

Macromedia Central is installed using the Macromedia Flash Player through a browser. The environment then runs offline on a local client.

With Macromedia Central, users and developers can view multiple Flash applications at the same time, use the applications concurrently or move information from one application to the next. The environment can be personalised, and users can receive updates for information based on preferences they choose, Hickman said. Applications within the environment communicate through XML and other Web services standards.

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