Flash has Competition

Macromedia Flash has competition and this is only natural. After all Flash has the franchise for animation and rich media development on a wide range of platforms but most notably on the Windows PC. Its SWF file format is the preferred means of delivery of combined animation, sound, fonts, images and video over the Web, onto desktop plus into kiosks , PDAs and Mobiles. But as the CES 2005 Show revealed, the whole market for rich media is in flux … and a lot of companies want a piece of the action. And Macromedia, in the rush to link rich media with data processing with its Breeze, Central and Flex products, has left some opening for the competition.

The first opening is the tight integration of design tools across the animation, image, audio, video, and 3D. Macromedia Flash is still glued to a now antiquated timeline model that other products such as Swishzones Swishmax , Erains Swift3D, and ToonBoom Studio are establishing new and better visual development for. And these alternatives are starting to eat away at Flashs creative mindshare competitive advantage. Here are two other vendors which pose serious challenges to Macromedia Flash.

Ventuz

Ventuz produces realtime, large scale presentations by translating DirectX commands into any device, realtime visual interfaces. Ventuz is that rarity – a .NET managed code program. Now wait a second – Flash is in the business of cross platform delivery of rich media with the keyword being cross platform. How does Ventuz get beyond that hurdle? Ventuz does not have to worry about that for now – they have to worry about being under the attention of Microsoft. The guys and gals in Redmond have seen how well Ventuz is doing very rich media for presentations. So they could do a Visio on Ventuz – buy them out if Ventuz becomes a major success in the marketplace as the Ventuz beta and final product reach market sometime in 2005.

And the company has a real chance because Ventuz has solved some tough development problems integrating 3D, a hierarchy of objects and devices plus multiple timelines in its visual developer interface. And the presentations that Ventuz is capable of producing will bring top dollar. So even if Microsoft ignores them, Ventuz still has a niche but lucrative market they can mine while they expand their DirectX into OpenGL and a broader cross platform market. Or they can just quit and do their own thing in say Java Agenting Avatars – the software is that good. The ideas that portable.

Axel

MindAvenues Axel comes from the opposite direction – integrating at the highest level in graphics – 3D animations. But like Macromedia in the 2D world, Axel integrates with just about every 3D, 2D, video, and audio format for input that matters in the rich media world. Ditto on the output side where Axel talks to every rich media god worth communicating with. And Axel is cross platform having Windows and Macintosh versions.

But the key innovation in the Axel world is also its development environ and how MindAvenue has tackled integrating diverse media in a visual development interface. Some of it is eerily like what Ventuz is doing but a lot is clearly MindAvenues own, unique and very interesting simplified programming and model interaction design elements.

Based on the CES Show and the myriad smart media devices and formats pouring out from there – the ability to integrate and orchestrate it may be opening up for grabs. Clearly this will not be a Web Services dependent set of tools; but neither will they be pure, unwashed SOAP users. The market for rich media is not locked up – and Macromedia knows this. What will be intersting is how they and some of the stakeholders we have mentioned play this one out.

(c) JBSurveyer 2005