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Updated Macromedia tool goes old school

After months of focusing on Web tools, Macromedia turns to an old favorite--the CD-ROM--for its revamped Director multimedia authoring tool, which is set to launch next week.

After months of focusing on improving Web services and design, Macromedia is returning to an old favorite--the CD-ROM.

The software maker is set to announce on Monday a new version of Director, the multimedia authoring tool that is one of the company's oldest franchises and helped kick off the CD-ROM boom of the early 1990s.

While the new Director MX ties in with Macromedia's Flash animation software and other Web tools, it is primarily designed for putting together packages of sound, graphics, video and animation for delivery via CDs and other static media. One key market is in companies building custom educational and training software. Another is in developers creating simple games and other animation for Macromedia's Shockwave player.

Macromedia CEO Rob Burgess said that while Macromedia and the rest of the business world have concentrated lately on Web applications, there's still plenty of demand for CD-ROMs to deliver full-screen video, rich animation and other multimedia than can't easily be shoved through an Internet pipeline.

"Three years ago, people looked at the Web as being the solution for everyone and everything," he said. "We've seen that sometimes there are better media for rich graphics and video...The Web is terrific for a lot of applications, but it has limitations as far as delivering rich media components."

The new Director also works with non-PC devices, such as retail information and ordering kiosks and multimedia advertising displays. McDonald's recently used Director to create menu displays with automatic timed updates for some of its stores, and several of the giant video displays in New York's Times Square run animations made with Director.

The new Director includes expanded tie-ins to other Macromedia products, including the latest version of Flash, which should allow content creators to reuse much of their Web content for offline presentations. The package also has expanded tools for making content accessible to disabled people, including speech features that can automatically convert text into audio.

Versions of Director MX for Windows and Mac OS X are set to go on sale in mid-December, priced at $1,199 for new users or $399 for those upgrading from either of the last two versions of the software.