Macromedia Inc. almost had a clean sweep in the Application Development category in Datamation's Product of the Year for 2000. The San Francisco-based application development tools vendor took first and second place, with its Flash 5 and Dreamweaver 4.0 products, respectively. And, if the voting had lasted just a week or two longer, it would have been able to lay claim to third place as well, since that went to Allaire Corp.'s ColdFusion 4.5. Just a week after balloting closed, Macromedia agreed to acquire Cambridge, Mass.-based Allaire.
In a heated contest rivaling the recent presidential election in its closeness, Macromedia's Flash 5 scored 20 percent, or 55 votes, narrowly edging out another Macromedia product, Dreamweaver 4.0, which garnered almost 19 percent, or 51 votes. Allaire Corp.'s ColdFusion 4.5, a Web site development tool, placed third with almost 16 percent, or 43 votes.
|Voters had a choice of the following nominees:|
The three products were actually in a dead heat through the month-long balloting, which started in December. The winner was decided only in the last week of voting.
Users say the close contest shows that successful Web development depends not on one product, but on the use of several products that compliment each other. Applications for creative Web site elements such as animation, audio and complex menus need to be paired with editing tools that assist in the design and maintenance of Web sites, they say. Enabling e-commerce and Internet-based enterprise applications also require a capable Web application server to support them.
Macromedia Flash manages file-processing tasks for the creation of web site animations and other creative effects, while Dreamweaver is a comprehensive site editing and maintenance tool. Allaire's ColdFusion is used to build scalable Web sites and applications.
According to Craig Roth, an analyst with META Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn., the products have some overlap that could cause problems after the merger. "This acquisition will be a difficult adjustment for both organizations, since many pieces and technologies overlap and will have to be shaved down in various spots to work together," Roth says.
Source: International Data Corp. (July 2000)
Like many Macromedia users, Roman Cebulski, creative maven at Web design and consulting firm Ruralmedia Inc. of Easton, Conn., uses both Flash and Dreamweaver to create and manage Web sites. "Flash is a designer's dream," says Cebulski. "No longer do you have to worry about HTML and how to break apart your design for it. What you create is what you get, and you can add interactivity and animation."
Dreamweaver, he adds, "makes it so easy to set up sites, store and organize them. To preview your work in a browser, just hit F12...it's that simple. Perhaps the best feature is the ability to use a simple WYSWYG to create things such as rollovers and navigation bars."
Nat Estes, content developer for Internet music distributor BMG Direct in New York City, credits Flash with "Small file sizes, the ability to load a file into it without having to refresh the page and the ability to carry variables internally."
However, Estes adds that he hasn't yet seen any practical uses for Flash in e-commerce applications. " I think it needs a better set of hooks that allow independent Flash Movies on an HTML page to communicate directly to each other, databases, or a Flash movie on a subsequent page before it can have any real influence on that," he says.
While analyst Roth forecasts some difficulty following the Macromedia/Allaire merger, he says there are reasons to believe that this will only enhance Macromedia's dominant role in the Application Development market.
"Dreamweaver has a hidden feature that will allow it to maintain its strength in its market, and that is its ability to be customized and work with other tools," Roth says. "For example, they can work with a cell phone manufacturer to create an add-on kit to develop WAP applications for its phones. Many application servers have given up the race for the HTML presentation layer and decided to work with Dreamweaver to provide this functionality instead and it has worked out well."
Neil Plotnick is the author of The IT Professional's Guide To Managing Systems, Vendors and End Users and is a freelance computer writer in Boston.
Links to all Product of the Year 2000 articles:The Internet on Overdrive