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Macromedia Touts Java Compatibility, 3D Graphics

Macromedia Inc. Tuesday used its self-titled conference as a platform for a number of announcements crucial to its evolving business strategy.

Presiding over the Macromedia UCON 2001 in New York City, the company announced that JRun, the Java technology based application server added to its product line after its recent merger with Allaire Corp., has passed Sun Microsystems'Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition J2EE test suite with flying colors. Just as important, the software company specializing in cutting edge graphics has teamed with Intel Corp. to inject 3D capabilities into its new product suite.

Macromedia JRun makes the already developer-friendly J2EE platform broadly accessible to the entire Java development community. J2EE, the all-business entity of the Java triumvirate package that includes a standard edition (J2SE) and mobile edition (J2ME), aims to simplify enterprise applications by basing them on modular components, and subsequently providing services to those components, and by handling many details of application behavior automatically, without extra programming.

In a sector where reliability is crucial, Macromedia hopes that JRun customers will delight in the notion that they will not experience "vendor or platform lock-in"; that is, pieces of or entire applications can interoperate readily. J2EE was created with multitier applications in mind. Because enterprise applications have to integrate services from a variety of vendors who employ a number of application models and standards, Java cuts down some of the development time by being able to operate cross-platform while perched atop existing database management systems, monitors and services.

Macromedia JRun delivers capabilities of the J2EE specification in an integrated server, providing companies the ability to build advanced business systems for a number of transactions and messaging apps. A long-time supporter of Sun technologies, Macromedia is an active participant in the Java Community Process(JCP), the open process that Sun has been using since 1995 to help Java evolve.

"This is great news for JRun customers looking for the interoperability gains and assurances that come with compatibility," said Jeremy Allaire, chief technology officer, Macromedia.

As for the 3D graphics, those are part and parcel of a platform devised by Macromedia with chipmaker Intel, announced last July. Created for the authoring software suite Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio and the corresponding player, the graphics are empowered by the computer's central processing unit as opposed to broadband connections so dancing images such as smoke and shadows can be displayed on screens without burning too much memory. Director 8.5 is priced at $1,199.

Macromedia relied on Intel's technology to compress the 3D graphics. Not surprisingly, this has attracted a number of 3D authoring companies, all of which have agreed to embrace the new products from Macromedia: Alias|Wavefront, Discreet, Havok, MAXON, NewTek, NxView Technologies, Inc., Right Hemisphere, Softimage, and hardware company NVIDIA Corp. Macromedia is also working with 3D scanning service bureaus, 3D model libraries, digital rights management tools, and video hardware manufacturers.

In related news, Macromedia said it has bundled support for RealNetworks' RealAudio 8 and RealVideo 8 technology, which was released two weeks ago. The software company will accommodate the revamped technologies in its new Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio and Dreamweaver 4 apps.

Last week, Macromedia bowed FreeHand 10, its new software kit for graphic designers, and Tuesday's news should be even more favorable for the company, which competes with powerful Adobe.

In initiating coverage on Macromedia and chief rival Adobe last week, investment firm Dain Rauscher Wessels said Adobe is better positioned to weather the economic storm than Macromedia because it has a deep bench of non-Web legacy products.

"We expect the contribution from legacy print products, such as Acrobat, Illustrator and PageMaker to mitigate the impact of the dot-com shakeout and declining Web publishing expenditures," the investment firm said, noting that Adobe will also benefit from revenues incurred from a higher-than-expected upgrade rate for recent and future releases."

Such is not the case, Dain Rauscher Wessels said, for Macromedia. The company said Macromedia has seen light upgrades and said overall demand for software packages and curbs in IT spending will slow the software maker's growth over the next few quarters.

Adobe's stock has more than doubled up Macromedia's, trading at $41.87 to its rival's $16 price tag Tuesday.