The new versions, announced today (29 April), bring the products into Macromedia's MX family, which already includes its flagship Web animation and interactivity runtime application Flash MX, said Jeremy Allaire, chief technology officer at Macromedia. The releases, which the company has been working on for nearly 18 months, are another step in Macromedia's vision to unify the tasks of Web design and Web development, he said.
The unity will lead to a different kind of Internet, Allaire said. The current Internet is built around the browsing metaphor, but the Internet of the future will enable more interaction on the part of users, he said.
A more interactive Internet will require a rich client, good server technology and top-notch design tools, he said. Macromedia's rich client offering, the Flash MX player, is already available and plays "a central role in this strategy," he said. The Flash MX player will be able to work as an application environment for desktop and handheld programs and will be Web services-aware, he said.
The second component for Macromedia's vision is addressed with the release of its new ColdFusion MX product. The upgrade redefines ColdFusion, moving the product from a proprietary application server to one that works with J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) application servers and makes it easier to develop Web applications and services, according to Allaire. The new version of the software will allow script writers, rather than developers, to create Web services and applications, he said.
ColdFusion MX also supports Microsoft's .net Web services initiative and will allow users to develop code to work with .net, Allaire said. The product also includes Flash Remoting, server software that will allow developers to create Flash applications that can interoperate with business logic and Web services, he said. The product runs on Windows, Linux, Solaris and HP-UX and works with application servers from IBM, BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems's iPlanet division.
The third component of the company's vision consists of the MX-series versions of the visual Web page creation package Dreamweaver and the Web graphics and animation tool Fireworks. Dreamweaver MX now brings together four previously separate products: Dreamweaver, Dreamweaver UltraDev, ColdFusion Studio and HomeSite. The four applications have been tightly integrated and share a common code base, Allaire said.
The new Dreamweaver improves the visual tools for creating Web pages and integrates other applications, such as Flash MX, to enable the creation of Web applications and services. Dreamweaver MX can also create .net services and Java applications.
Fireworks MX adds support for XML, eases repetitive tasks and smoothes the export of graphics and HTML to other applications. Fireworks is used by designers to build and optimise Web graphics and small animations.
The new versions of Dreamweaver and Fireworks add support for Windows XP as well as native support for Mac OS X.
Macromedia has also announced the release of Studio MX, a suite of products that includes Dreamweaver MX, ColdFusion MX Server Developer Edition, Fireworks MX, Flash MX and the Freehand 10 illustration package.
All the new products will be available in early June. ColdFusion MX will be priced at $799 (£546) per server for the Server Professional Edition, while the Enterprise Edition will cost $4,999 (£3,418) per server. Dreamweaver MS will be priced at $399 (£273) and Fireworks MX will sell for $299 (£204). Studio MX will be priced at $799 (£546).
The MX series of products further underlines Macromedia's move away from head-to-head competition with Adobe Systems into a more Web-focused area, Allaire said. While Adobe is strong in publishing, especially with its PDF technology, Macromedia is looking more closely at the integration of applications' runtimes and Web applications and tools, according to Allaire.
The marriage of Flash and Web applications makes a lot of sense, according to Randy Souza, an analyst with Forrester Research. Interactive Web applications right now are "anaemic," he said, but Flash "allows you to put together some pretty compelling and, most importantly, some pretty responsive applications".
Along with making these sorts of Web applications responsive, Macromedia has also helped to make them easier to develop, Souza said.
Macromedia has a history of making "it easy for developers to understand new and emerging Web technologies," he said, citing the releases of Dreamweaver and ColdFusion as tools that allowed users who weren't sophisticated programmers to adopt new technologies. The company is "continuing that with MX," he said. Bringing the various products that form Dreamweaver MX together, along with outlining a strategic direction for the company, makes for "a line of products that is very compelling," he said.