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Macromedia courts Java crowd

The company sets a date for its new set of Flash tools designed to let Java developers use a standard, text-based approach, rather than Macromedia's traditional design-focused tools.

Macromedia will share on Monday more details of its plan to get Java developers working with its Flash format.

Macromedia Flex, formerly code-named Royale, will be a combination of server software, development guidelines and other tools to enable traditional Web application developers to create components in Macromedia's Flash format. As previously reported, the product will focus on giving developers accustomed to working with Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) a framework for building attractive, easy-to-navigate interfaces for the J2EE applications they create.

"I think that's been one of the limiting factors with Web applications," said David Mendels, general manager of MX products for Macromedia. "All of the effort has gone into the back end, and very little into the last millimeter, where the user interacts with the application."

Flex will let J2EE developers create Flash applications using standard, text-based development tools, rather than the complex design-focused tools Macromedia sells. Macromedia began trying to expand Flash's appeal among mainstream developers earlier this year with a version that mimics the programming interface familiar to Visual Basic developers. Macromedia is in the middle of an ambitious effort to expand the use of Flash--once seen mainly as a format for blinking Web ads--into a broad foundation for delivering Internet applications and building interactive Web sites.

"Flash is a really great tool for designers and scripters to build interactive applications," Mendels said. "But it's not really a programming model or deployment model that works for mainstream enterprise application developers. That's what we're addressing."

Macromedia plans to ship Flex server software in the first half of 2004, with pricing to be determined. The initial version will work with J2EE servers, but a version supporting Microsoft's .Net format is planned for later.

Early corporate supporters include IBM, which is promoting Flex as an adjunct to its WebSphere software.