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Pets.com Redux? No, Just Macromedia

Proprietor of the influential Flash technology Macromedia Inc. Monday introduced a sample application built using the entire Macromedia MX product family -- a suite the San Francisco firm is relying heavily on to help it compete in the much-hyped Web services arena.

Dubbed Pet Market, the application portrays a fictitious online pet retailer. The company's point is to show developers examples of how such a program might work using major server architectures such as the Java platform and Microsoft's .NET Framework.

How did the company flesh the Flash-driven store out? The checkout process of Pet Market breaks out of the standard multi- step, page-browsing model of the Web and brings user interactions into a single screen that never requires a page refresh. The application also enables customers to use the browser's back button to navigate through the Macromedia Flash user interface.

Pet Market also illustrates the use of object-oriented programming on the client side, which enabled Macromedia to change the user interface of Pet Market to respond to feedback gathered through usability testing. The Model-View-Controller (MVC) design pattern of Pet Market also helped to make the application modular and easy to port across different platforms.

Pet Market comes complete with source code and more than a dozen articles to show designers and developers how to create their own applications. Macromedia also released Macromedia Flash front-ends that extend and enhance the Java Pet Store and .NET Pet Shop blueprint sample applications. The company claims these tools will help Java and .NET developers understand how to use Macromedia Flash to deliver better user experiences.

Released in April, Macromedia MX includes Macromedia Flash MX, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia ColdFusion MX, and Macromedia Fireworks MX.

Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly & Associates and a noted speaker on the evolving Web services market, liked what he saw in Pet Market.

"Macromedia Flash enables regions of the screen to be updated without a page refresh based on back-end database interaction," O'Reilly said. "Macromedia Flash can no longer be dismissed as a tool for web animation. It's become a ubiquitous rich client that will radically change the way people use the web."

The buzz continues to swirl around Web services, which many research firms have analyzed exhaustively in the past year or so. The FactPoint Group said in June that North American companies are adopting Web services at a faster rate than anticipated. This, the outfit said, is wise because firms who don't will get left behind as businesses adopt new systems that communicate with each other more efficiently.

IDC said the professional services around Web services-related projects to generate $7.1 billion in the U.S. by 2006, with a phased adoption for Web services, very much like the Internet was phased in from the intranet (facilitating internal communication) to the extranet (facilitating communication with partners) to the Internet (facilitating communication with any one).