Macromedia exec talks the talk

Macromedia Inc.’s chief software architect Kevin Lynch detailed the company’s strategy to enhance Internet communications at a recent conference.

During the Flashforward 2002 developer conference, Lynch used his keynote address to show off Macromedia’s new communications server, explain the San Francisco-based company’s strategy for improving the end-user Web experience, and foreshadow some forthcoming technology.

Lynch broke Macromedia’s strategy for better Internet communications into three parts: emotion, context, and interaction. He said that each experience can be improved considerably over what it is today.

When it comes to emotion, for instance, current software does little to help users express emotions, he said. “The best we can do to express emotion is put a smiley face in e-mail,” Lynch said.

Furthermore, much of the information on Web sites currently lacks as much context as it should have, and is not as easy to interact with as it should be.

“That’s what we are going after with the communications server, to integrate various [communications technologies] such as VOIP, Web casts, and instant messaging,” Lynch said. “We’re raising the level of human interaction across the Internet.”

Earlier this week Macromedia took the wraps off of Flash Communications Server MX, which is currently available and includes collaboration and streaming media as well as multiway audio, video, and text messaging.

Lynch continued that Macromedia and other companies’ efforts to bolster electronic communications are not new. “Computer science was basically [created] in the 1940s and 1950s, and we have kept reinventing it ever since,” he said.

To illustrate his point, Lynch showed a tape from 1968 of Douglas Englehard demonstrating early word processing, collaboration, and video conferencing technology. These are some of the same ends that technologists are working toward today, he continued.

He followed the video by summoning Englehard, who was in Palo Alto, Calif., with Macromedia’s communications server, and conversing with him via its videoconferencing capabilities.

Another big push for Macromedia is to more closely align its front-end Web design tools with the server-side Java software that it acquired from Allaire.

“There is a trend in using Flash with servers,” he said. “We’ve been working to make that easier, so you don’t have to be a hard-core Java developer.”

One of the ways Macromedia has made it easier for Flash to work with servers is through Web services, which also enable ColdFusion to expose server code, he said.

Toward that same end, Lynch demonstrated technology he loosely referred to as data grid, which hooks into servers or databases and can download information. The software can retrieve and be filled with data from those sources, such as rows and columns of information typically associated with relational databases.

“We’ll be releasing this shortly,” Lynch said, though he offered no more details.