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Macromedia Feeling Lucky with Linux Player

Macromedia completed a cycle this week as it updated its Flash media player for Linux systems.

Already available for the Windows and Macintosh platforms, the new Macromedia Flash Player 7 for Linux is available for download and will be automatically bundled with the next batch of Linux systems distributed by Novell, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and Turbolinux.

But while the Windows and Mac versions have been out since September 2003, the San Francisco-based Web graphics software maker said it wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly before releasing the seventh manifestation of its media player to the Penguin crowd. Macromedia engineers got an assist from their counterparts at Sun in porting the Flash Player code to the Linux platform. Previously, Linux users were limited to Flash Player 6.

"We wanted to make sure that Flash Player 7 for Linux would give the same performance standards as our other versions," Waleed Anbar, Macromedia product manager, told internetnews.com.

Anbar said the company took about the same 10-month gap between the Windows and Linux versions of Flash Player 6 and does not expect that to change in the future.

Extending its Flash Player on as many desktops as possible is somewhat of an obsession for Macromedia. The company already boasts an install rate of more than 98 percent of Internet-connected desktops and a growing number of mobile devices. Companies such as Novell , Red Hat , Sun and Turbolinux are eager to assist. Each company has been working to push a branded desktop version of Linux into the enterprise and beyond as an alternative to Microsoft .

For Linux developers, the toolbox for building Flash Player applications is somewhat limited. Macromedia only supports Linux development coding on its Macromedia Flex presentation server software but not its Macromedia MX2004 nor its MX2004 Professional versions.

The company is considering its development platform options but is not committing to a roadmap just yet. The company is just as coy in announcing its intentions to enmesh its Linux Flash Player code into any of its other platforms such as Macromedia Central or Macromedia Breeze.

Since it has the exact same attributes as its Windows and Mac counterparts, Flash Player 7 offers support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). It also boasts the ability to blend HTML and Flash with consistent formatting and new support for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) Web services connectivity.

Other features common to all the Flash Player releases include Actionscript 2.0 (an enhanced programming model); better performance for data operations; and improved security to handle communications in a client-server environment.