Pro File: MX in the Mix

Even before the February release of FreeHand MX, Macromedia has had a busy year. The graphics and design software maker spent 2002 rolling out new versions of nearly every marquee product via releases that it considers to be more than just simple updates. Bearing the MX label, these programs are part of Macromedia's strategy for releasing integrated tools that make it easier to create rich content and Internet-based applications on the Web. In an interview conducted before FreeHand MX was announced, Macromedia Chairman and CEO Rob Burgess spoke with Macworld about his company's MX initiative and how it will affect what Macromedia does in 2003 and beyond.

We have a vision at Macromedia that is all about taking the next major step in terms of the experience on the Internet. The first product started back in [March 2002] with Flash MX, then the bulk of the products came out in the summer, as Studio MX. Now we've just added Director MX for the Mac. So this is really the start of the next generation of tools, the next generation of technology, all oriented around providing a much better Internet experience than you have been able to do before.

Absolutely. So you have not only client-side technology, but also server-side technology. Marrying these is another key component to this better experience. One of the implementations of this next-generation experience that we're talking about is called rich Internet applications -- the merging of content and application so that you're able to create experiences that are more like desktop experiences that are responsive and have logic running locally, a much better user interface, and take advantage of the benefits of the Internet, like database access and distribution.

In terms of multimedia, Director is the granddaddy of them all. It's the most powerful environment. And people use Director for when they need to have multiple mediums that they're targeting -- not just the Web. Typically people who are just targeting the Web use Flash. There are some cases where they use Shockwave, particularly where they need 3-D. But where people really use Director the most is where they want output to CD, they want output to DVD, to kiosks, and they want output to the Web. You know the new Mini Cooper? The owner's manual ships on CD, a gorgeous CD that's done with Director. But when you actually run that CD, it connects to the Web, and so the experience is kind of transparent to you. You don't know if you're on CD or on the Web, and that's a perfect application for Director.

Not really.

You know, things have a nature, and the nature of Lingo is power. And for the people who are pretty well-versed in Lingo, Lingo is really what they like and what they want. You can't really change the nature of a product, but you can always enhance it. We're not trying to make Lingo available to the masses.

It is more accessible. And you know, Action Scripting in Flash is basically the same as any simple scripting language.

Sure. There are all kinds of crossover. From a design perspective, you really want to design for the medium. You don't want have a television show running on your phone. And so things should definitely, from a design perspective, be contemplative of users, their goals, and the properties of the device. Having said that, there's lots of opportunity for cross-media publishing. Content being redeployed, and being able to move between the various mediums is something people want to do. There's lots of constraints. But over time those constraints will be removed somewhat. With broadband, for instance, as people get better access, as computers get faster and faster the deployment of things on the Web in a video format will get easier faster and better. So [in terms of] redeployment of the content, I imagine there will be ad campaigns that run on television and on the web, so you'll see more and more of that.

Nothing. It's designed to articulate that this is not just another point release, but that this is a family of products that is a next generation of products.

It's a good idea, don't you think?

Contribute is just out of the box, and we're working hard on the Macintosh version. We have to overcome some of the obstacles there.

The biggest one is the lack of an embedded browser. Contribute uses the Windows embedded browser on that platform particularly. So we're working aggressively with Opera to get an embedded browser available for the Mac.

Yeah, it's not very popular, but we'll actually deliver the functionality that's needed here, and it'll accomplish the purpose.

Yes. We are working with Opera, to make their browser available on the Mac. We are one of the major software companies that need it, so we're helping with the development of it, we're supporting the development, we're pushing on the development of it, and intend to continue to do that until it is available. And then we'll be able to have Contribute for our Macintosh customers.

It probably won't be early in 2003.

Well, it's actually been a pretty steady stream of product launches. Flash MX came out in April. Studio MX, Dreamweaver MX, Fireworks MX all came out in the early summer. Flash Communications Server came out right after that. And now Contribute and Director MX. We're not done. There's a whole pile of stuff coming out in 2003.

Both.

Fontographer is still a current product for us. We're still selling it.

We haven't done a lot with it. But a lot of people buy that product still.

Not at the moment.

Yeah, well, I don't know what to say. When I say a lot of people buy it, you know, it's not a huge product for us, but it is a current product, and people do buy it. We haven't really got a business case up to update it.

For the next few years.

I wouldn't say that we've turned away from the Mac market at all. In fact, we have, if anything, more of a commitment to the Mac than ever before. When I got here, the spread between Windows and Mac was almost fifty-fifty. It was probably 50 to 60 percent Windows, 40 to 50 percent Mac. That was six years ago. The Windows platform had really not advanced into these core markets. The last five or six years, that market share has changed quite dramatically.

The Windows platform getting more robust for the creative markets. Having the software available, having the community around it, faster hardware, faster graphics. The point is, Macromedia isn't really in charge of that. There's an industry out there and the [market] has shifted from predominantly Mac to predominantly Windows now. And I think in our core markets, the market share is more like 70 to 80 percent Windows, and 20 to 30 percent Mac. However, Macromedia still spends half of its research and development on Mac. That is a disproportionate investment relative to where the markets are. So I wouldn't say we're backing away from the Mac market at all. In fact, we're very enthusiastic about Apple, and we're very enthusiastic about the Mac. We always have been, and I personally am. I think Apple brings excellence in design, excellence in choice, and we want to continue to support [the platform] very aggressively.

Absolutely.

My belief is that it will increase market share.

The MX strategy, the thing we call MX now, was the driving force for our acquisition of Allaire -- a vision of the next generation of the Internet, where applications meet content, where server-side functionality is married with client-side functionality, and integration of all of these things. In fact, we have been talking about this with Allaire for many years, so when we pulled the trigger on that acquisition, that was the beginning.

I could see how you could say that, but the implementation of different Studio bundles that occurred in the mid-90s, the words were the same but the strategy was different.

Those [bundles] were a medley of different authoring technologies, for video, or print, or Web, etcetera. And this is really not that. This is a vision of a next-generation experience on the Internet, and the technologies that you need in order to achieve that.

That is a huge area. I'm sure we could do a whole interview on our participation there. But just to bring you up to speed with what we've been doing,over the last two or three years… Flash is ubiquitous on the computer side of the things. It's installed on 98 percent of the computers connected to the Internet out there. It's still downloaded three million times a day every day. So over the last two or three years, we have been working very aggressively with every non-PC device manufacturer and environment that is relevant. We started with the interactive TV boxes, and signed lots of deals with Microsoft. We've moved into the game platforms, with Sony Playstation as an example. We got into relationships with companies like Nokia for their phones that were powerful enough to run Flash. And now we're very aggressive on the handheld devices, like Sony's new Clie which is the first Palm OS-based handheld that is supporting Flash… We've signed deals with about 35 major companies in the non-PC area to have Flash. And over the next year or two, you're going to see some really incredible work happening to make different functionality available -- not just content, but services and infrastructure around Flash for the mobile market that will be just a fantastic experience for people. I don't want to say too much more now, but that will be a big area of news for us in the next year and we have some news by April.

We have not made the decision to release that product on the Mac platform. I'm not saying we're never going to, but we don't see the market demand at this time. But Mac is making a push into servers, and we'll see how the market develops over time.

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