Macromedia Inc. is embarking on a crucial juncture in the 11-year-old company’s product history.

Best known for its Flash MX and Dreamweaver MX software, Macromedia’s latest creation, Macromedia Central, extends Flash beyond the browser. Essentially, Central enables users to run Internet applications

offline on their desktop. The San Francisco-based company says Central provides instant delivery of applications, support for occasionally connected computing, cooperative applications and open data forms.

Computing Canada spoke with Macromedia’s CEO Rob Burgress during his recent visit to his hometown (Toronto) to discuss the future of the company and its progress of late.

Computing Canada: Why did Macromedia decide the time was right to offer a subscription-style service (DevNet) that gives developers access to Flash and Dreamweaver?

Rob Burgess: The main reason is if you look at what our customers do, people are using Flash, Fireworks and Dreamweaver as a family so we decided to integrate them as such. DevNet is an easy way for them to get at everything.

It’s also a matter of simplification. Enterprises have to deal with complexities when they’re buying thousands of copies of Dreamweaver and keeping track of all the licences. This simplifies that process for them, and for us, as we don’t have to show up on their doorstep every few months pitching an upgrade.

CC: How will DevNet change Macromedia’s revenue model?

RB: We haven’t broken that out yet. I don’t know how quickly it’ll be X per cent of our annual revenue.

CC: Why did Macromedia decide to purchase Presidia and how will that product be integrated into Macromedia’s product line?

RB: We’ve renamed that product Breeze and it is beautiful. We all know how cumbersome PowerPoint presentations can be if you’re trying to deliver it over the Web. We’ve added voice-overs and speech sounds for Web delivery. And in integrating it with our Flash Communication Server in the near future, we’ll be delivering a meeting space in real-time with audio-visual capabilities.

CC: Some users have complained that Macromedia’s revamped Web site doesn’t work well with some browsers including Apple’s Safari. What is being done to address this and why wasn’t there more thought put into navigational-related issues prior to the site’s launch?

RB: Safari is a great technology but it’s a beta release. We didn’t know about this browser’s release ahead of time as Apple never told anyone about it. As for those people using Safari to come to our site, they comprise less than half a percentage of people on the site. Having said that, we are working hard with Apple to fix the bugs. As for the navigational issue, we launched a discussion about the design process and the changes on our Web site and we got lots of feedback from it. Some of it was good and some of it was bad. In fact, I agreed with a lot of the negative feedback. So we changed our site and implemented some of the changes people wanted. We also published a document describing those changes and the design concepts behind them.

CC: One criticism we’ve heard is people are no longer interested in having splashy Flash introductions on their corporate Web sites. What is your view on this?

RB: I hope they’ve finally lost interest in that (Flash introduction pages). I’ve always hated them. It’s like any media type, for instance, film. Some people will use film to make pornography. Well, I’ve always hated the gratuitous animation Flash was being used for. Our vision for Flash is enabling a better user experience.

CC: What is Macromedia doing to aid the efforts of the Flash user groups that have been forming in growing numbers worldwide?

RB: User groups? They’re more like cults (laughs). Flash-Forward is the main user organization and they’re holding their annual conference in San Francisco soon. We’ll be a part of that conference.

I was in Korea recently, and I discovered there are about 250 separate books published about Flash in that country. Flashers — it’s what the users call themselves — now total more than one million people strong.

CC: What is Macromedia Central?

RB: Macromedia Central is a new paradigm of computing that will allow you to interact with the Internet outside of the browser or offline . . . we’re hoping (developers will) embrace this product and begin developing new apps for it.

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