Macromedia Goes Toe-To-Toe With Microsoft With Flash MX Pro 2004

In addition to upgrading Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash, Macromedia has announced a pro version of Flash called Flash MX Professional 2004. This product is designed to allow users to create Internet-based applications, including apps that are tied in to back end server functions. This is a new arena for Macromedia, and one that puts them squarely in the sights of Microsoft, a company that invested billions in its own .Net technology. In addition to application development, Flash MX Professional 2004 also includes streaming video capabilities. From Macromedia:

Macromedia, Inc. today announced Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 , the Flash development environment for advanced content, applications, and video experiences. Users familiar with forms-based application development are now able to embrace the power of Flash and the reach of the Internet.

Flash MX Professional 2004 enables developers to organize and build applications using a forms-based metaphor as an alternative to traditional timeline development. Developers familiar with tools like Microsoft Visual Basic will find this programming metaphor approachable, giving them the ability to design a form, add components, integrate data, and build application logic and navigation.

By using Flash MX Professional 2004 to deliver rich Internet applications, programmers of traditional desktop applications will be able to combine the great usability and richness of their desktop applications with the efficiencies and reach of the web.

Flash MX Professional 2004 also offers connectivity to server data with robust, scriptable data-binding that supports Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) web services, XML, and Flash Remoting. Development teams will benefit from integration with the Microsoft Visual SourceSafe source control system to manage project files.

Flash designers and developers will use the video capabilities in Flash MX Professional 2004 to deliver high-quality video with unique interactivity and custom interfaces. Video quality is significantly improved through performance optimizations in Flash Player 7 that allow full frame rate, full size video, and progressive downloads. Pre-built video components help users build custom, interactive interfaces to convey brand image, and to composite video and audio with animated graphics, images, and text. Video quality is improved dramatically through a streamlined development workflow with leading professional video editing and encoding tools including Anystream Agility, Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Xpress/Media Composer, Canopus Procoder, Discreet Cleaner, and Pinnacle Edition ( see separate release ).

Developers deploying content to mobile phones, PDAs and other device platforms will benefit from the ability of Flash MX Professional 2004 to streamline development and to test content and applications using emulators for targeted devices, such as the NTT DoCoMo i-mode 505i series mobile phones. Now, any Flash developer can be a mobile device developer simply by deploying Flash MX Professional 2004 content to devices. Device-specific templates, text optimization, native device sounds, and sample content are also available to help developers target this emerging market.

Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004 also include the MX Elements for Flash, application components that enable developers to rapidly create great experiences with a consistent look and feel. The MX Elements for Flash include templates for common projects such as presentations and online advertisements, as well as helpful user interface components such as a data grid, a media player, and an accordion pane. The MX Elements have the distinctive Halo look and feel.

Flash MX Professional 2004 joins other products announced today in the MX 2004 family (see separate releases), which share core new features including site definitions, file management, and Property Inspectors. The product also includes integration with Macromedia Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and other design and development tools in Macromedia Studio MX 2004 with Flash Professional (also announced today, see separate release).

Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004 are "Designed for Windows XP" and "Built for Mac OS X."

Flash MX Professional 2004 requires Mac OS X 10.2.6 or higher. The product is priced at US$699, and the company is offering upgrade pricing starting at US$299. Flash MX Professional 2004 is expected to ship in September. You can find more information on the product at Macromediais Web site.