Microsoft Corp is believed to have trained its acquisition crosshairs on Macromedia Inc, lining up a deal that would throw enterprise Java into a spin,Gavin Clarke writes
Industry and analyst sources believe Microsoft covets San Francisco, California-based Macromedia's Flash vector graphics design tool and player, which was radically updated this year.
Microsoft's own scripting efforts are regarded as relatively inferior to the cross-platform Flash, which now supports XML, Unicode, MP3 and HTML and which was taken closer towards Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) in 2002. The Flash Player, meanwhile, is compatible with most browsers and used on nearly 90% of desktops.
Flash would give Microsoft access to tools for building rich interfaces on both desktops and mobile devices, furthering .NET.
An acquisition, though, would be seen as a hostile move deliberately designed to thwart J2EE uptake. Flash is a powerful and rich development environment, which - through Macromedia's changes this year - took a step closer to J2EE.
Macromedia adopted the MX brand for Flash to emphasize integration with ColdFusion MX, also launched this year. ColdFusion MX is a web and server development environment and application server updated to sit on top of J2EE application servers. Macromedia partners include IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.
The ColdFusion web application server is regarded as superior to Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASPs) and even Santa Clara, California-based Sun's Java Server Pages (JSPs) because of its simplicity, power and completeness. ColdFusion MX, meanwhile, uses ColdFusion Mark-up Language (CFML) tags that compile to Java.
Flash MX and Cold Fusion MX were presented by Macromedia as a means by which programmers could build in Java, but avoid the complexity of Java.
The J2EE community sorely lacks a programming environment that can make Java more accessible to mainstream developers. San Jose, California-based BEA Systems Inc has come close with WebLogic Workshop but this is more for Java-based web services.
Macromedia, meanwhile, said it was bringing its estimated 300,000-strong community of developers to J2EE, potentially expanding the pool of J2EE programmers.
A Microsoft acquisition of Macromedia would inevitably see Flash, and Macromedia's other cross-platform tools, tailored purely for Windows and .NET.
Analysts believe Macromedia is ripe for acquistion. Revenue for the most recent four quarters has been flat while net income is in the red. Macromedia reported an $11.6m net loss, down from $70.7m, for the fiscal quarter to September 30 on revenue that fell 2.2% to $85.4m. For the six months period, Macromedia has narrowed its loss from $182.4m to $13.6m while revenue fell 3.4% to $169m.
Neither Macromedia or Microsoft were available for comment.