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Macromedia Takes Flash Beyond the Web

In a move designed to showcase the possibilities of life without wires, Macromedia Thursday unveiled a public beta release of a new environment for people to interact with the Web without relying on a continuous connection.

The system, dubbed "Macromedia Central" is considered an "occasionally-connected application" that enables users to operate applications that run outside the browser environment.

As individuals and businesses increasingly rely on Web-based applications in everyday life, the new product will help Web developers sell and deploy their applications to the public. Once the Macromedia Central environment is installed on a user's machine, that user is immediately able to download applications from developers. The system then automatically detects when the user is online and connects directly to a Web service or other source of dynamic data.

The Central environment runs on both desktops and mobile devices using the technology of the Macromedia Flash Player 6. Currently, Macromedia Central supports distribution types including individual and enterprise applications, as well as commercial Web applications, and those distributed by OEMs. Some of these applications can be provided for free, though developers will also be able to charge for their work, as well.

"Macromedia Central represents an important step forward in the way people can interact with information on the Internet," said Kevin Lynch, chief software architect at San Francisco-based Macromedia. "Central provides an environment for developers to make applications that provide this great experience both online and offline."

At launch, Central's public beta included two initial applications -- Movie Finder and AccuWeather. Movie Finder gives users access to film ratings, show times, ticket purchasing, and DVD rental services. The information is gathered from Tribune Media Services, Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes and Netflix. AccuWeather shows five-day forecasts and notifies end users about specific weather conditions.

According to Lynch, these applications will be part of a larger application library down the road. Since the start of the initial beta program this summer, close to 1,000 developers have joined the application development community for Central. As a result, the number of applications available to Macromedia Central users has grown every day.

The developer program for Central will transition to a public Software Developer Kit (SDK) beta next month, enabling anyone to create applications. Already, this has developer Phillip Kerman excited for the future.

"I'm excited to create applications for Central because they'll have distinct advantages over conventional web applications," said Kerman, author of "Flash for Rich Internet Applications," and a host of other books. "As a platform, Central removes boundaries to let you create applications that go beyond what we traditionally consider possible for [the] Web."

Macromedia's Central beta release coincided with the "One Unwired Day" wireless event, sponsored by Intel . The company said its next update of Central will ship later this year.



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