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Macromedia Prepares For Battle 'Royale'

SAN FRANCISCO --

Time was that Macromedia exclusively built tools to make the Web really cool to look at -- but this is not your father's Internet anymore.

The San Francisco-based firm says it is looking to the future where its popular Flash platform dominates a user's experience, whether they are on the desktop or on the go. One of those elements is "Royale," a cross-platform development and deployment technology that helps build rich Internet applications. During a briefing Thursday, Macromedia said it is currently working on the technology but did not specify when the technology would debut. The company is accepting applications to join the beta program.

The company says the platform is particularly suited for server side development of client side interfaces in a style similar to Java or JSP building client side interfaces.

Macromedia executive vice president of marketing Al Ramadan said he is "very excited" about the technology that lets developers describe an application's user-interface layout, UI controls, and data-binding using a familiar, standards-based programming model.

"We are very focused on the user's experience and Royale is the next generation tool that will help address this," Ramadan told internetnews.com "MX gave us a basis for building Web sites and taking our platforms out to the desktop, but Royale will also play an important part."

Royale uses current technology as its basis. For example, the company said Royale uses a text-based format so developers can create Royale applications using their preferred IDE or text editor. Customers will still be able to use their existing tools, languages, application servers and databases to build applications that take advantage of the standards-based Royale technology.

Macromedia says Royale will not replace ColdFusion and JRun, instead for traditional HTML-based applications, the company says both ColdFusion and JRun are complete unto themselves. For rich client applications however, Macromedia says ColdFusion and JRun are great for creating the business-logic tier. Royale in that respect will extend ColdFusion and JRun investments, but does not require them, the company said.

Overall, Macromedia is wrapping up its first year of its evolution from a Web tool builder to something bigger. Ramadan says the company is currently honing in on three key target markets: Designer/Developer, Business Communications (what the company calls "Information Convenience"), and Mobile Devices including handhelds and cell phones.

"There is something here that is really exciting," Ramadan said. "We are looking at defining the experience layer and taking the Internet as it exists today to version 2.0."

The company best known for its Flash tools and player continues to rely heavily on its designer/developer community, which consists of 5 million creative professionals and Web developers and 8 million professional developers (software coders, etc.). The products under this heading include their strongest offerings such as ColdFusion, JRun and the latest MX2004 applications (Dreamweaver, Flash, Flash Pro, Fireworks, Studio).

But beyond the core development tools, Macromedia has been branching out. Such is the story with its foray into the Web conferencing space with Macromedia Breeze as well as its casually connected wireless platform Macromedia Central. The company's data shows this market to be 35 million strong, including areas such as "content contributors", teachers and "subject matter experts".

One new area Macromedia is looking at is the mobile market universe worth between 800 million and 1 billion. Currently, Macromedia offers Flash Lite and Flashcast to target this sometimes confusing and at-odds with itself market to reach significant success already. Recently, Macromedia inked a deal with Japan's NTT DoCoMo to include Flash on their cell phones.

Ramadan says he is not intimidated by Java's established base in mobile handsets, nor other environments like Real Player. Rather, he's convinced that the Flash platform actually has a better chance of success considering its size and pervasiveness.

"We have 98 percent penetration on the desktop with Flash Player and the current seventh version is a 400k download and that includes the embedded codec and player," Ramadan said. "The Java desktop is a 2,200Mb file.

The company is scheduled to hold its Macromedia MAX 2003 user conference later this month in Salt Lake City.