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Macromedia Releases Flash 4, Frees Source Code

Macromedia Inc. Monday announced Flash 4, the latest incarnation of its multimedia player and authoring software. The company also formed shockwave.com, a new unit that will focus on developing new rich media entertainment for consumers.

Macromedia said Shockwave.com will focus on delivering personalized online entertainment to consumers worldwide. The site will launch early this summer. Macromedia also tapped Stephen Fields, a 13-year veteran of the Walt Disney Co., to serve as chief executive officer of Shockwave.com.

"Over the last few years, Macromedia has been equipping its customers with the software to author a new generation of entertainment," said Rob Burgess, Macromedia's chairman and chief executive officer. "shockwave.com is the natural next step in our strategy to add life to the Web. This business is about radically enhancing consumers' ability to enjoy rich media on the Internet."

Macromedia has partnered with a number of companies to provide entertainment content on shockwave.com, including Comedy Central, Fox Interactive, GT Interactive Software, Hasbro Interactive, Marvel.com, Sega of America, 3D Groove, and VR*1. Distribution partners include: @Home Network, Comcast Online Communications, LookSmart, Mplayer.com, Showtime Networks, Warner Bros. Online and Xoom.com

The latest version of the Shockwave player includes Shockwave Remote, which allows consumers to search the Web, send games or content to friends, play content multiple times without re-downloading and save up to five pieces of content for playing offline.

Shockmachine, which will retail for $19.95, is a new piece of software that features enhaced playback and personalization capabilities.

"Shockwave remote and Shockmachine provide a new generation of user experiences for rich media on the Web," Burgess said. "They provide wonderful services like search, send and save that enable consumers to control and enjoy their favorite Web content."

Flash 4 incorporates new features such as MP3 streaming audio, interactive interfaces with text entry fields, conditional logic and basic arithmetic functions, and an entirely new authoring environment.

The Flash Player currently ships with all major Web browsers and operating systems; more than 77 percent of Web consumers can already view Flash content without having to download any plug-ins, according to Macromedia. Now they will also be licensing the source code to the Flash player free, so hardware and software vendors will be able to include it in new platforms.

Macromedia is developing a Flash Software Development Kit (SDK), which will be available later this year.