Macromedia sees a future where companies extend their websites with downloadable Flash applications to deliver information and services to users, accessible online and offline.
Later this year Macromedia will offer Macromedia Central, an extension to its widely used Flash player that allows users to run Flash applications outside a web browser and when offline.
The Flash applications detect when the user is online and can connect automatically to download items such as weather reports, film listings and recipes. Applications can also be linked, so that a user could move a recipe from a cooking site to a grocery store Flash application and order the ingredients.
Flash applications can be offered for free, but Macromedia Central also provides a "try and buy" mechanism, including a transaction engine that allows a provider to offer an application on trial basis and then sell it. Macromedia Central also allows a software update feature so providers can push the latest version of their Flash applications to users.
Macromedia Central is meant for use on standard computers as well as handheld devices. Developers do not need to learn new skills to be able to create Flash applications, but Macromedia does have some guidelines and will release a software development kit.
The Macromedia Central update will be free to end users when it becomes available mid-year. Users of Flash Player 6 will have the update installed automatically when they choose to install a Macromedia Central application offered by a site.