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Microsoft "Expression" Well-Suited To Be a Flash-Killer, Former PM for Project Claims

The Official Name of "Sparkle" Is Now Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer, Bill Gates Announced at the PDC

"Macromedia Flash, in my opinion, is becoming less of a significant player as developers shift from Flash to using DHTML and AJAX to create applications like GMail and Google Maps," wrote former "Sparkle" program manager Jon Meyer yesterday. Meyer claims that "Sparkle" – now officially re-named Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer – "will go significantly beyond what is possible with Ajax or Flash."

Meyer, who worked on the Sparkle team as a Program Manager in 2002-2003, for just over a year, while the product was in its formative stages, wrote as follows in a thoughtful blog yesterday titled: "Microsoft Expression Sparkle finally announced":

"Today many developers view Flash as a tool best suited for web video and advertising, and not for the 'heavy lifting' required in substantial applications. I see this trend continuing, unless Adope significantly enhances Flash, e.g. with 3D, more audio and video formats, access to native code, a revised security model, more sophisticated text, faster script execution speed, and an open runtime of the breadth and richness of .NET."
Meyer - now an artist, technologist, and teacher - described how the new product combines sophisticated animation features with the ability to create rich user interfaces. "It was designed from the outset to be an authoring tool for professional designers to build the next generation of user interfaces for the Windows platform," he explained.

Meyer, who runs a Manhattan-based New Media Theory reading group which he started in mid 2004, continued his analysis as follows:

"Sparkle will go significantly beyond what is possible with Ajax or Flash, though it will take a while before the software necessary to run Sparkle apps reaches the marketplace (Windows Vista will not ship until late 2006). Microsoft is planning their largest marketing push ever for Windows Vista, so the number of people able to run Sparkle apps will explode in 2007.
Meyer noted that one open question is whether Ajax is "just good enough" to hold off Microsoft's Sparkle/WPF. "Modern Ajax web applications built using HTML and CSS are very attractive and easy to use," he conceded, "and run on almost any platform."

"Will designers and developers perceive the added advantages of the Vista/Sparkle combination worthwhile, considering that adopting Sparkle will inevitably lock people into the Microsoft platform?" he asked, candidly. "Given the strength of Microsoft's marketing machine, I think the answer will be yes."

An honest geek to the last, he then added:

"Then again, I'm typing this message in a HTML web form, and not on Microsoft Word... a convincing example of ubiquity trumping richness."
Microsoft clearly sees the ubiquity of Ajax as a possible threat, Meyer concluded, because at the same time as announcing Sparkle, they also announced "Atlas," an Ajax framework for ASP.Net.

"During their PDC keynote, they even demonstrated an Atlas application running on a Mac with OS/X," Meyer added, "surely the first time Microsoft has ever showcased an Apple during a keynote, and a sign of the importance they place on the concept of ubiquity."

Meyer's final remarks were about reach: "So far no one has said whether Sparkle will generate apps that run under WPF/E, a smaller-footprint version of Avalon/XAML that should run on Microsoft's mobile devices. My guess is that the initial focus will be on deploying to XP and Vista apps, with WPF/E apps coming a release or two later."

Flash's ubiquity (cross-platform/browser/device) may unquestionably be the strongest reason that it will be around for some time. But the new Adobe-Macromedia combo will have to work hard, if Microsoft has anything to do about it, to keep its massive lead now that there's a tool for designers to build interactive UI and animations for next-generation Windows applications (or Internet Explorer applications).

More Stories By .NETDJ News Desk

.NETDJ News Desk monitors Microsoft .NET and its related technologies, including Silverlight, to present IT professionals with news, updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards, and insight.

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