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Microsoft pushes Flash for interactive TV

Macromedia announces an agreement with the software giant to increase support for its Flash animation player in Microsoft TV.

Macromedia announced an agreement with Microsoft on Monday to increase support for Macromedia's Flash animation player in Microsoft TV, the software giant's interactive TV software.

Macromedia Vice President Peter Meechan cast the Microsoft deal, and subsequent relationships to be announced later this week, as part of a broad effort by Macromedia to extend Flash to non-PC "embedded" devices.

"It's allowing for these devices to have a rich, consumer-engaging experience with a really familiar interface," he said in an interview.

Flash is one of the leading tools for displaying animation and other interactive content on Web sites. Tailoring the software for devices such as set-top TV boxes, handheld computers and game systems will allow developers to exploit new formats without learning a whole new set of tools, Meechan said.

"Taking these 1.2 million (Flash) developers...and helping them get up to speed on these new market segments is what we're about," he said. "They know the tools; the challenge is to understand the constraint they're working with as far as screen size, user controls (and) memory."

Under the Microsoft deal, developers learning to write interactive TV applications under the Microsoft TV Developer Program can take advantage of special programs to learn how to include Flash in their interactive TV projects.

The fledgling interactive TV industry has latched on to Flash as a familiar way to add Internet content to TV programming. Besides Microsoft, market leaders OpenTV and Liberate have added Flash support to their interactive TV software. Interactive TV start-up Moxi Digital recently announced that it will support Flash in its multimedia entertainment receiver.

The animation format has attracted criticism on the PC side, however, with Web designers and usability experts saying Flash-heavy sites are often difficult to navigate and slow to load in a Web browser.