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A Better Ajax Than Ajax? Adobe Says, 'Yes'

The former Macromedia in San Francisco was known as the Cadillac supplier of tools for Web site development. Now, as part of Adobe Systems, it wants to become more of a Volkswagon-style supplier: The driving experience will remain the same but its aiming for thousands of new drivers. Actually, over the next three years, it would like a million.

Adobe acquired Macromedia in December and is bidding to broaden its product line in the field of rich Internet applications, the "next generation" apps that allow more customer self service, more individual user interaction with the Web site, and a higher degree of navigability for site and user interactions.

In 2004 Macromedia launched Flex, a $20,000 set of user interface components and tools to make it easier to build applications capitalizing on Macromedia's multimedia engine, the Flash Player. To date, about 5,000 developers have made use of Flex components and tools, says Jeff Whatcott, senior director of product marketing.

Now it's giving away the software development kit for free, lowering the price of the ease-of-use development tool, and widening the capabilities of Flex 2 to work with Ajax. The old Macromedia used to say the future of interactive Internet applications belonged to the Flash Player. Many user interactions could take place within its confines.

Adobe now says Flash is great, Ajax is great, and Flex will work with both. In effect, Adobe says Flex 2 and other Adobe tools will provide a high-end development platform for Ajax-style development.

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