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Macromedia boosts rich UIs

If it is true that one can never be too rich or too thin in life and on the Internet, then San Francisco-based Macromedia Inc. may have an answer for the latter statement if not the former. The company has unveiled Macromedia Flex, a presentation server and application framework for developers to use in creating rich, but not fat, Internet applications.

The new product offers end users a client/server-level desktop presentation without downloading megabytes of presentation and business logic, according to Rod Hodgman, vice president of product management. He told Programmers Report that Macromedia Flex is that next step in end-user application development, which began with green screen text in the mainframe era, improved to rich if fat desktop applications in the age of client/server, and then reverted to thin HTML text in the initial Internet years.

''How do we take the best of desktop applications and the best of Web applications?'' Hodgman asked. The goal is ''applications that are deployed and maintained behind the application server, and that are centrally deployed and centrally managed -- married with drag-and-drop, client-side processing,'' he said.

Flex builds on the technology in Macromedia's Flash Player, which streamlines the amount of code downloaded to the Web client, Hodgman explained.

''We're able to achieve a small footprint on the client because Flash Player is a vector-rendering engine,'' Hodgman said. ''So applications that are compiled and downloaded onto the Flash Player are probably no more on average than 150K to 250K [in size], whereas the applications in the old client/server world were probably one or two megabytes.''

The initial version of Flex, which is beginning beta and scheduled for release in the first half of 2004, runs on J2EE application servers. A .NET version is planned for a future release, noted Hodgman.

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About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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