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Macromedia's Web entertainment vision

At Macromedia's ninth annual user conference, chief executive Rob Burgess outlines a vision of the Web as a mainstream entertainment medium, with paying users.

SAN FRANCISCO--More than a thousand Web developers at Macromedia's ninth annual user conference here heard chief executive Rob Burgess outline a vision of the Web as a mainstream entertainment medium, with paying users.

In addition to a new alliance with @Home and a technology agreement with RealNetworks, Burgess today said Macromedia is developing an e-commerce infrastructure to make the purchase of games and other software over the Web easier.

Burgess addressed a standing-room crowd and Webcast audience the day after Macromedia announced a flurry of significant moves, including the formation of a wholly owned spin-off called Shockwave.com and the release of two virtual appliances for playback and storage of animated multimedia content.

Developers interrupted this morning's keynote with frequent ovations as Burgess demonstrated the new products and painted a bright future for Macromedia's product line.

"Every other media type, every other medium, has become an entertainment medium," Burgess said. "The time is now [for the Web]. The quality is getting there, the reach is there, and now the business models are going to follow."

For Macromedia, that business model is a mix of charging for some premium software, such as the newly announced Shockmachine for content storage and management; aggregating content at Shockrave.com, launched last year, at the newly announced Shockwave.com; and aggregating content in the Shockmachine and its free counterpart, Shockwave Remote.

Macromedia, which has scored a string of bundling wins that has put support for its Flash technology in major operating systems and browsers, today said RealNetworks would integrate Flash 4 into future versions of the RealSystem G2 multimedia software.

Macromedia also said it has entered into an alliance with cable Internet access and content provider @Home, under which @Home's Enliven technology will be integrated into Macromedia's Flash and Shockwave players. Enliven is a rich-media advertising unit that @Home acquired last year.

Even as Burgess zeroes in on an entertainment-driven Web, Macromedia is ramping up its corporate offerings. The firm last year launched a learning software division, and company president Norm Meyrowitz today emphasized the degree to which companies including Intel, Microsoft, and IBM are using Flash and Shockwave animation in their intranets and extranets.

Burgess also alluded to, but did not elaborate on, a move within Macromedia to build e-commerce infrastructure to increase the payoff for content sites and tools. The infrastructure would automatically transact sales and allow for micropayments, keep track of virtual coupons and subscriptions, and streamline the process of paying for content.

"Initially the intention was to have a business model where sites like Shockwave.com and the Shockmachine just sold advertising," said Macromedia vice president and general manager of Web publishing David Mendels after Burgess's keynote. "But over time we plan to sell content through the machine."

In one example, Mendels said Hasbro could offer a free version of its Frogger game through the Shockmachine while offering a premium version for sale.