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Macromedia Updates Director for Internet Age

Macromedia Monday announced an upgrade of a workhorse product that helps developers build interactive content and applications once and deliver it to multiple formats including CD/DVD-ROMs, kiosks and the Web.

The San Francisco-based Web graphics software maker said its Macromedia Director MX 2004 addresses the latest trends in Web publishing such as support for JavaScript, Flash MX 2004 content, DVD-Video, and the ability to create projector files for both Mac and Windows platforms in one step.

The software works on Mac OS X version 10.2.6 or higher, and for Windows 2000 or Windows XP. The company is marketing the upgrade to professional multimedia developers, advanced Flash developers, professional DVD developers, e-learning designers, and game developers.

Since the first version of Director was released almost 15 years ago, the development platform has been used to create some 70 percent of the multi-media CDs in circulation. The company said its goal now is extend that capability to DVDs including support for peripheral devices such as joystick or a digital camera.

Macromedia Director of Product Management Miriam Geller told internetnews.com that the platform's DVD-Video functionality will let developers embed, control, and playback DVD-Video content within multimedia projects. Director also has a powerful Xtras plug-in architecture, which lets developers to extend both the application and playback

"Today DVDs and CDs are often connected to the Internet in some way and this provides some exciting possibilities for our products." Geller said.

For example, General Dynamics subsidiary Gulfstream is using Director MX 2004 to develop a cockpit simulator that mixes real-time mapping information, global satellite positioning, and weather overlays. The cockpit interface lets users to drill-down into the information using the shared components between Flash and Director as well as the support for JavaScript.

Despite its new focus on DVD-enabled content, the latest Director stops short of allowing developers to write to DVD set top boxes such as the ones made popular by companies by TiVo and SONICblue. Geller said the possibility is something that Macromedia "will keep an eye on."

Director also has the ability to launch and edit both Flash and Fireworks and includes support for Flash MX 2004 components, including user interface components. Like other MX 2004 products, Macromedia said Director now offers the ability for users to even customize both the platform's "stage" and "movie-in-a-window" interfaces.

So with so much cross compatibility inbred in the software, why not make Director an "uber" platform and merge Director and Flash?

Geller said both products have multiple strengths and the company will continue to offer as Director and Flash complementary products, but said combining the two is just not in the script at this point.

"We can't be everything to everyone," she said.

Like its predecessors, Director MX 2004 supports most major video, audio, bitmap, 3D, and vector formats and plays on multiple platforms through Macromedia's Shockwave Player. But the product also makes it so interactive within projects, it can now be scripted directly using JavaScript, Lingo (Macromedia's proprietary language), or a combination of both. The updated version lets developers to stream video files in DVD-Video, Windows Media, RealMedia, QuickTime, and Flash formats.

The new software is expected to ship in English in February and is priced at $1,199 for new users, and $399 for upgrades from Director 8.5 and Director MX. The company is offering discounts volume licensing orders and for people in the education or government sectors. French, German, and Japanese versions will be available at a later date.