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Longhorn's Flash Killer? 784

SunSaw writes "Erin Joyce reports on that "Top developers at Microsoft are working on a new graphics and animation toolset for Longhorn (the next generation of Windows) that could spell trouble for Macromedia's popular Flash MX and Director MX animation tools". Flash's yet-to-be-released competition from M$ is code named "Sparkle" but it wasn't demonstrated during Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last week. Is this the beginning of the end for Macromedia?"
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Longhorn's Flash Killer?

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  • article text (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:22PM (#7410449)
    Top developers at Microsoft (Quote, Chart) are working on a new graphics and animation toolset for Longhorn (the next generation of Windows) that could spell trouble for Macromedia's (Quote, Chart) popular Flash MX and Director MX animation tools, sources familiar with the situation told

    Code-named "Sparkle," the tools under development would be integrated with Microsoft's .NET runtime environment. That would ultimately mean developers could have Flash- and Director-like animation and graphics tools ready-built for them soon after Longhorn hits the marketplace.

    One source familiar with the project, who saw examples of the "Sparkle" toolset integrated with Microsoft's C# , said early prototypes have given rise to talk of its potential as a "Flashkiller" or even a "Director-killer," referring to Macromedia's popular Flash animation software and Director tool, which is best known for building small animations for CDs.

    A spokesperson for Macromedia said the company does not comment on speculation or rumors about products not yet in release.

    As for how the "Sparkle" project could pan out, a source familiar with the situation said much depends on the Longhorn build, which continues to morph even after the public airing of its pre-beta build (build 4051 of Longhorn) during Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last week.

    The news of yet another code-named project for Longhorn follows a flood of information about Microsoft's future product builds that rained down on the five-day PDC. Attendees got their hands on pre-beta versions of SQL Server ("Yukon"), Visual Studio .NET tools ("Whidbey") and a host of new graphics and animation rendering features in the Longhorn operating system.

    Although demonstrations of Longhorn's capabilities at the conference did not include "Sparkle," a closer look at Longhorn's capabilities provides clues that Microsoft's vision for computing is based on providing tools for increasingly rich media and 3D vector graphics capabilities in computers and computing devices.

    With graphics processors apparently following the same principles of Moore's Law and roughly doubling their data density every 18 months, as prices for computers continue to fall, many in the technology industry think the industry could be at another inflection point similar to the arrival of the browser in 1995. Only this time, advances in computing will be with animation, 3D and other rich media.

    A lot of the goals Microsoft is aiming at with "Sparkle" are the same as those Flash is looking to accomplish, one source said. But the tool goes beyond Flash in delivering a .NET application that has access to all the APIs in Longhorn, and effectively takes animation beyond the browser to enable, say, three videos running at the same time as other graphics and animation.

    Whether "Sparkle" would ship after Longhorn ships, which is now widely believed to be in 2006, is still an open question.

    The news comes as the company continues its hiring spree of talent from all sectors of the technology industry, including former staff from Adobe, and as it doubles its R&D budget for its 2004 fiscal year to about $7 billion.

    Still, for all the razzle-dazzle response that "Sparkle" has inspired by those that have seen it in action, the tool could also end up in Visual Studio or be given away with the operating system, one source said. It's too soon to tell.

    And it's not the first time Microsoft, or Adobe for that matter, have tried to take on Macromedia's Flash, which is installed as a downloadable plug-in on roughly 95 percent of desktops that are Internet-enabled, said Scott Hamlin, a director of content for (Jupitermedia, the parent company of this publication, licenses Hamlin's content in, which is part of its division.)

    "Flash is one of the best technologies I know of that compresses vect
  • Re:What a surprise (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:26PM (#7410533)
    Actually all the specifications are being released to the ECMA, and it's going to be in XML. So anyone can make a compatible, competing parser if they so desire.
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:42PM (#7410755)
    They purchased Dimension X, the owner of Liquid Motion in order to kill the product and help kill off Netscape. You see, Liquid Motion was a Java based application that Netscape was using for it's authoring tool. Microsoft found out that Sun Microsystems was looking to purchase Dimension X and got into a bidding war with Microsoft winning.

    This was also the period where Microsoft purchased Coopers and Peters too. They had a Java based product too and it too was killed.

    So goes the way Microsoft competes and "innovates". Don't take my word, history is a better instructor.

  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:47PM (#7410819)
    I don't see them releasing a standalone IE for ... os/x

    uhh... []
  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:50PM (#7410853) Homepage
    Point your browser to and read the fine print.

    I _really_ hope this doesn't mean that Expression will die a second death...

  • by AT ( 21754 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:52PM (#7410889)
    I wholeheartedly agree. I recommend this solution for mozilla users though:

    It shows a place holder in each flash frame until you click on it to play the flash. This gives you the best of both worlds: flash is blocked by default, but where you actually want to see it, it is only a mouse click away.
  • by ischorr ( 657205 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @05:03PM (#7411031)
    So, let me get this straight.

    MS is going to be embedding technology into their browser and OS that ensure that every computer running their operating system have a built-in, "native" version of the software (and likely use it by default), whereas users and corporations will have to go out of their way to install the competing product (it's difficult to convince OEMs to do ANY extra work that they don't have to do when building these bigger, cheaper, faster McComputers).

    Microsoft used this tactic to kill Netscape.

    They're using it to attempt to crush Java and related middleware platforms (.NET), competing web technologies (IIS/ASP), Media (WMP), and, it sounds like, embedded vector animation ("Flash-killer").

    Yes, I'd say the DoJ settlement is doing a bang-up job ensuring that Microsoft doesn't abuse their monopoly power and perform monopolistic anti-competitive practices...
  • by Drathos ( 1092 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @05:06PM (#7411068)
    ...a certain company called Microsoft bought some rights or something to Mosaic and it became Internet Explorer.
    Um.. MS licensed the tech from Spyglass for IE for a percentage of the sales, then proceeded to give away IE.

    Guess what?

    That means they paid nothing to Spyglass for Mosaic.

    True, there was a version of IE for Solaris, but it was extremely slow and buggy. IIRC, it never got past version 4.0, either.
  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Informative)

    by FIRESTORM_v1 ( 567651 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @05:19PM (#7411219) Homepage Journal
    You are correct. According to Microsoft, twhen they released NT, they called it NT because it had "new technology" 32 bit processing perhaps? What is funny about the nt moniker is that 'nt' is a trademark of Northern telecom (now Nortel Networks). and Microsoft has been paying them a lot of money to use that branding for NT.. Probably why Windows 2000 wasn't called Windows NT 5..

    Haver fun!
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @06:01PM (#7411705) Homepage Journal

    Remember that SVG is a W3C standard. []

    For that reason, it is imperative that Microsoft to make its own superceding one (embrace, etc.). A lot of other organizations suffer from the NIH [] malady, but it's extra painful when it is a company with this much influence.)

    The community really needs free, powerful, robust SVG renderers and authoring tools using public standards to become popular, or else Microsoft will own yet another "standard".

  • Re:Open Flash source (Score:4, Informative)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @06:18PM (#7411847)
    The flash player IS open source. ensing/sourcecode/form.html []

    It's not open to me. I just filled in the form and my request to look at the source was denied.

    In any case, some people say that the Flash player is open source because the swf format is open, but that's just like Bill Gates saying that the Internet Explorer is open source because the html format is open.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @06:36PM (#7412008)
    The parent comment is full of misinformation. If the presentation he refers to was at PDC, then I was there too.

    The Registry is NOT going away. Microsoft is encouraging people who write Longhorn apps to store application preferences in the WinFS data store. They won't be "spread across directories" because WinFS isn't strictly organized with directories. MS can't move system info out of the registry because Windows needs it to boot -- before the WinFS store is accessible. They would like to get rid of it eventually, but it's not going to happen anytime soon.

    SQL Server, the product, is not being integrated into Longhorn. The new object-based filesystem in Longhorn, WinFS, is built on SQL Server technology. You'll still have to buy the server product if you want to run a full-fledged database.

    Dot-net is already "integrated" with the OS in that it's installed on the system. What's new in Longhorn is that a large percentage of the system will be written in managed code (i.e., will run under the .NET CLR.) Complaining that this is an anti-trust issue is like saying that Microsoft is illegally "bundling" OLE or COM into Windows. .NET is a development technology, not a product.

    IE being integrated into the OS -- true, but we already knew about that.

    (BTW, before anyone accuses me of being a Microsoft apologist, I run OS X and OpenBSD at home, not Windows. I'm not a zealot, I just have my facts straight.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @06:39PM (#7412034)
    Why do companies insist on hurting their legitimate customers in the guise of trying to stop piracy? It doesn't stop piracy. What it does is break the product for your actual customers and turn them off of it.

    When a customer buys your software, they deserve to run it where they want when they want.

    You software companies are already trying to deny any and all responsibility for the product you've sold (through immoral EULAs) yet want to hold your customers up to a higher standard and then charge them for fixing your problems?

    Come on - get off your high horses and put out a product, fix it and support it, and don't treat all your customers like thieves.
  • Re:Open Flash source (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @07:04PM (#7412281)
    You're kidding, right? That's a commercial SDK licensing program for Flash. It's unclear that you would even get the entire Flash sources, let alone under an open source license.

    You can get the source to Windows under similar terms; that doesn't make Windows "open source".
  • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @07:14PM (#7412360)
    Actually for a while NeXT had hardware-accelerated DPS for its cubes, via a graphics board called NeXT-dimension. At the time (1990) it was simply amazing. This board did accelerated Display Postscript at something like 1080x960 in 32-bit colour and even had video capture (PAL or NTSC). It sounds like not much right now, but there was nothing like it at that price range at the time.
  • Re:Flash? (Score:3, Informative)

    by krmt ( 91422 ) <therefrmhere&yahoo,com> on Thursday November 06, 2003 @07:38PM (#7412530) Homepage
    Homestar Runner [] is one of the best sites on the net. XiaoXiaoMovie [] is awesome as well. I can't think of any other sites like these off the top of my head, but I'm sure others can add to the list.
  • Re:Open Flash source (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:23PM (#7413286)
    Also the SWF file spec document has a restrictive license that only allows you to create an application for SWF file output only. In other words, you cannot make a flash player if you obtain this document.

    I'm glad M$ is doing this because Macromedia needs a kick in the pants to open this format up. Their market is primarily Windows and MacOS although they do also make a Linux version.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"