In a nutshell, Flash Communication Server is a "development environment for creating all types of communications," Beth Davis, vice president of product management and marketing told ServerWatch. The communication server provides the link between the application server on which an enterprise is developing a solution and an end user''s browser (assuming Flash Player is installed), Davis added.
Flash Communication Server is represents a foray into unchartered waters for Macromedia. The server combines communication and applications in a single solution that enables developers to include communication capabilities such as streaming media, multi-way video, audio, text messaging, and real-time collaboration features, in their applications. These applications are then embedded directly into the user''s browser and can thus be custom branded, Chris Hock, director, Flash product management noted.
Designed as an open development platform, the server enables enterprises to develop customized solutions integratable with established Web and application server infrastructure.
The communication server comes with new extensions to the Macromedia Flash MX authoring environment. The extensions include new authoring, scripting, and debugging capabilities as well as pre-built components for login, multi-way chat screens, white boards, and video conferencing.
Flash Communication Server also offers Shared Object technology, which enables multiple users to share live white boards and other real-time data in the context of an application. Included as part of the Shared Object technology are automatic data synchronization, user interface synchronization, and offline data storage. Hock noted that one real-world application of this functionality would be the sharing of data among an entire project team.
Flash Communication Server works with other products in the Macromedia MX family, in particular Studio MX for development and ColdFusion MX on the server, Davis said. Flash Communication Server also integrates with Java and Microsoft .NET application servers, as well as Flash Remoting, if used with another application server.
On the client side, applications developed using Flash Communication Server require Macromedia Flash Player 6 to receive and transmit video, audio, and data. Davis does not foresee this requirement being problematic as, Flash already has 414 million users, or 98 percent of the market, and the download for Flash Player 6 is 500 KB, as only what is new to the application is downloaded. According to Macromedia, the new player has the fastest adoption rate of any player in the vendor''s history.
New in Macromedia Flash Player 6 is the capability to automatically recognize installed microphones and standard USB or Firewire Webcams, and to let end users grant or deny access before anything is broadcast.
Flash Communication Server is available for immediate download from the Macromedia Online Store. Pricing is $499 for the Personal Edition (which allows up to 10 connections) and starts at $4,500 for the Professional Edition (which allows up to 500 connections). The Professional Edition also includes a one-year software subscription.