Macromedia sees flashy Flash application world

Macromedia Inc. sees a future where companies extend their Web sites with downloadable Flash applications to deliver information and services to users , accessible online and offline.

The Web development software maker later this year will offer Macromedia Central, an extension to its widely used Flash player that allows users to run Flash applications outside a Web browser and when offline, the San Francisco company said Thursday.

The Flash applications detect when the user is online and can automatically connect to download weather reports, movie listings and recipes, for example. Applications can also be linked, allowing a user to, for example, move a recipe from a cooking site to a grocery store Flash application and order the ingredients, Macromedia said in a white paper on Macromedia Central.

Flash applications can be offered for free, but Macromedia Central also provides a “try and buy” mechanism including a transaction engine that allows a provider to offer an application on trial basis and then sell it. Macromedia Central also allows a software update feature, so providers can push the latest version of their Flash applications to users.

Macromedia Central is meant for use on standard computers as well as handheld devices. Developers don’t need to learn new skills to be able to create Flash applications, but Macromedia does have some guidelines and will release a software development kit, the company said.

The Macromedia Central update will be free to end users when it becomes available midyear. In fact, the millions of current users of Flash Player 6 will automatically have the update installed when they choose to install a Macromedia Central application offered by a site, Macromedia said.