I had the good fortune to attend the recent Macromedia Launch of MX Studio at the Hyatt Hotel in Perth. And it was a pretty dazzling affair. I felt very privileged to be in that presentation room with its four large projection screens, there was even one presenter "signing" at the front left of the stage. It reeked professionalism and Robin Hilliard gave a very professional demonstration of some of the new features from the MX Studio 2004 suite of software.
I'll be taking a more in-depth look at those new features when I review the MX Studio 2004 suite of products in the next issue of the WBB. I will say however that I was very excited to see some of the new features in DreamWeaver, Fireworks and Flash. And for those CSS addicts amongst us who have been spouting the wonders of CSS for the last five years or so, we finally see a product that utilizes CSS to the max and with the usual Macromedia style.
After the formalities were over I sat down with John Treloar, the Managing Director of Macromedia, Australia and New Zealand, and took the opportunity to ask some pertinent questions about the Internet, Macromedia and John himself. I found John to be both candid and charming.
Question 1: The Internet used to be a very friendly place, its not really anymore . has big business made the difference?
John and I spoke at length about this question and in the end I agreed with John when he stated that he didn't believe that corporate white collar Internet had made the Web an unfriendly place to be . as a parent he believed that certain opportunists (read spam companies . but he was too polite to say) were using the Internet as a get rich quick fund and if something could be done about those people then perhaps the Internet would return to being a friendly place.
Question 2: Do Macromedia plan to keep developing software in parallel for the MAC?
The answer to this was a very definite yes from John. He stated that even though Contribute was a little behind on the MAC, as it was easier to implement on IE and the Windows platform, all the other products were released in parallel for both MAC and Wintel machines. John laughed a little and also said that in actual fact Contribute had been developed on the Mac then ported to Windows. Macromedia and Apple have a good working relationship and the MAC is still a strong part of their business. John admitted happily to being a MAC user, preferring his PowerBook to his PC laptop (yes he has two).
Question 3: I recently attended an Internet Press Conference, which you hosted, discussing the new Breeze software. I was very impressed but I wondered do you use Breeze everyday? In what capacity? In What role do you see Breeze being used in the future?
John became very passionate about Breeze as he answered my questions. John uses Breeze everyday. He uses it to follow up from meetings . he will meet people live in a meeting then as he is on a plane home he will put together a PowerPoint presentation, take it into Breeze to add audio and links to things he wanted to talk about in the meeting but didn't have time. He also uses Breeze to get evaluations and feedback of events (like the current launch of MX Studio 2004). He will put together 11 questions . i.e. venue ok? presenter ok? And direct people to it in the Breeze management area. Once the information has been returned he drops it into Excel and he has his statistics and feedback. John uses Breeze Live all the time for meetings with Macromedia Management in the States and within Australia. He said "I can use PowerPoint, I can speak to people live, I use Breeze everyday".
Question 4: One of the Macromedia Mission Statements states ."Macromedia imagines a world where every digital interaction is a smart, simple, efficient and engaging experience; where the true capabilities of digital experience emanate from every interface." There is, however, a slight fly in the ointment as someone has put forward their copyright on the EMBED tag in HTML. As Flash and Director players (and now Breeze) all use the EMBED tag how do Macromedia plan to deal with this issue?
John admitted to having heard of this copyright issue and that Microsoft had offered these people some Millions of Dollars . but they declined. John admitted, "I know that Macromedia will also have to do something about this but I'm not the person from the Company who can answer that question for you."
Question 5: Drumbeat (the predecessor to Dreamweaver) had a Shopping Cart facility built in. Why doesn't Dreamweaver?
Robin Hilliard happened to be nearby and he answered this question for John. He explained that the Shopping Cart which had been incorporated in Drumbeat was a very basic one. With the advent of DreamWeaver and numerous third party software developers Macromedia made the decision to drop the very basic Shopping Cart and allow the inclusion of the Third-Party "Plug-Ins" which were more sophisticated and in some cases free to utilize. For this reason there are no plans to have a Shopping Cart facility built into DreamWeaver.
Question 6: In what direction do you see the Internet heading? For example, we have Flash now which has changed the Internet . what next?
John believes that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with Flash and that it will not easily be replaced. The future of the Internet could well see browser-less surfing, with Flash being the replacement perhaps.
With that vein in mind, John talked about a newly released product called "FlashCast". No, this isn't the software product I reviewed a couple of months ago, this is a framework for distributing flash content to next generation phones. John demonstrated the Flash GUI and downloaded news articles from the Internet to show me how FlashCast worked. Simply put, Carriers will provide phones on their network with a shell application that is played in the Flash Lite player (Flash Lite is NOT the Flash plug-in for a browser flavour installed on a phone. Instead Flash Lite is a standalone application). This shell application acts as a portal to rich content (authored in SWF format). The application uses a channel paradigm just like a television. The user chooses a channel and is presented with what content is available for that channel. With FlashCast all of the content will be stored as SWF files on the carriers network. Once a SWF is chosen and comes down over the air to a phone it is stored in cache for offline viewing if needed. Very interesting stuff and it is right here right now.
Will browser-less surfing be the next thing we see for the desk-top?
Question 7: John, you have your own e-business and a Website at www.betterskin.com.au. Its an impressive site using ColdFusion. Do you feel that to be successful an e-business needs a dynamic website? Did the site come first or the e-business?
John explained, "We started with an idea, then a shop in North Sydney (Milson's Point) then came the Website. I had just left Microsoft and hadn't yet joined Macromedia and I decided to start an e-business. We began in 1997 and we're still around. The site, made with ColdFusion, still holds up after all this time. I had no ties with Macromedia and I still selected ColdFusion to build the Website with", laughed John.
Question 8: Do you have any advice to offer our readers on starting their own e-business?
John began speaking about Macromedia's Contribute software. I guess most readers will remember that I reviewed this software a couple of months ago. John is very passionate about Macromedia products and he felt that many e-businesses could be bought to fruition with the aid of contribute. He used as an example a Web Design Company targeting a particular market, i.e. Wineries. A template Website could be designed using Contribute which would enable the Designers to sell the Website at a cheaper price to normal, allow the Winery to handle changes to most of the content on the site but still allow the developers to prevent users making major changes to the design or database items, which would result in potentially negative changes to site aesthetics. John feels strongly that the power of Contribute has not yet been fully appreciated.
With the questions over, I thanked John for his time and we went our separate ways. The interview, for me at least, was a brief inside look into the workings of a Company I have admired for a long time. And I came to the conclusion that with passionate people like John Treloar and Robin Hilliard in Management, Macromedia will be around for a long time to come.