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Commentary: Smart Web pages

With Flash MX, Macromedia has taken the lead in the movement to change Web graphics from bitmaps into smart objects.

By Lou Latham, Gartner analyst

With Flash MX, Macromedia has taken the lead in the movement to change Web graphics from bitmaps into smart objects.

See news story:
Flash: More than just eye candy

Macromedia is turning its attention from the presentation layer to the application integration layer and starting to transform a product for creating Web pages into a development tool that makes possible richer, more dynamic sites. To do so, Macromedia is expanding the scripting capabilities of its previous versions with the programming tools it acquired from Allaire with its ColdFusion offering.

By making it easier for developers to integrate content with executable code, Macromedia has enhanced the programmability of Flash objects, thereby making Web sites more interactive. For example, a mortgage calculator could perform its calculations on the user's desktop and not have to go back to the server and call up a new page to present the results from each new set of figures entered. Therefore, a person could change parameters on the fly so that all the options could easily be reviewed and compared.

Not surprisingly, Macromedia isn't the only one eyeing the possibilities of turning Web graphics into smart objects. Flash MX comes in part as a response to the emergence of other formats and products for creating next-generation Web graphics. The rivals include MPEG-4 and Adobe Systems' Scalable Vector Graphics.

Nevertheless, Macromedia has a head start. Both challengers are much newer and have little market awareness, whereas the Flash decoder is already installed in 95 percent of Web browsers. Moreover, MPEG-4's proponents have proposed charging a fee for the use of its player, a suggestion that puts it at odds with the proprietary streaming players from Microsoft and RealNetworks and that will surely slow adoption.

Flash has always had a steep learning curve, and while Macromedia has made Flash MX easier to use than previous versions, the new development tools bring the complexity back up to historic levels.

(For a related commentary on Macromedia and Allaire, see

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.