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Macromedia Extends Flash Show

Macromedia is expanding the reach and impact of its Flash empire with the help of Akamai Technologies .

The two companies launched an on-demand Flash streaming media service this week based on Macromedia Flash Communication Server software and Akamai's EdgePlatform. The partnership is designed to help companies liven up their Web sites with Flash-based content like product demonstrations, corporate announcements and sales training.

Macromedia said it will market the new service to media and ad-serving companies, as well as news agencies. Because video is just another object in Flash, Macromedia said the content can be custom-branded, as well as synchronized with other elements on the Web page, such as graphs, charts, text and other audio and video streams.

"Flash is designed to stimulate more engagement with the content stream, which implies greater value," Paul Palumbo, a research director at AccuStream iMedia Research, said.

Macromedia claims Flash video is a better end-user experience than other media formats, because it allows for interaction with the content and has the ability to synchronize the video to other site elements, as well as playback within a browser.

Akamai is Macromedia's largest content delivery partner to date and builds on Macromedia's arsenal of contracts with Mirror Image, Speedera and VitalStream. Akamai is also no stranger to delivering Flash content. On any given day, the company said it serves several gigabits per second of downloadable Flash content, including several hundreds of megabits per second of Flash video traffic.

"Akamai experienced a more than 200 percent increase in total content streamed across its global platform in 2004, and has seen significant adoption in the industries of sports, news, music, and movies," George Khater, senior director of product management at Akamai, said in a statement. "Adoption is only going to continue to increase with the growth in these industries, and this service is an incredible tool to bring reliable delivery of key events to these companies."

Akamai said its progressive downloads require Flash Player 7 on the desktop, whereas Flash streaming is supported by Flash Player 6 and 7.

"Since Flash Player 7 is only on 70 percent of desktops in the U.S. as of September, as compared to the presence of Flash Player 6 on more than 90 percent of desktops, Akamai's streaming service for use with Macromedia's Flash service is supported by more end-users," Akamai said in its presentation materials.

However, the company points out that the advantage will eventually even out, as Flash Player 7 reaches similar adoption levels to Flash Player 6.

In addition to delivering the streaming services, Akamai said it is also offering storage options for Flash media to improve the availability of media to end users. The Boston-based content provider said it can also offer customizable, Web-based reporting tools designed to analyze both real-time and historical analysis of viewer usage and behavior of the Flash user.

The Akamai/Macromedia on-demand Flash Streaming media service starts at $2,000 with customizable packages available depending on how much traffic travels over the network.