Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Web Design

Flash, meet Sparkle.

Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Web Design

Microsoft has released a little more on Sparkle, a vector-based XAML technology for developing online and web applications (including animations) where Flash might otherwise have been used.

Microsoft have been hyping Sparkle for at least 24 months as a Flash-killer but admittedly, the Channel 9 MSDN demonstration positions it as a Flash competitor at best. Indeed, several articles I have read commenting on the demonstration have taken this line.

But I disagree. At least based on what Microsoft are saying on paper.

I am not a designer, though I observe our web designers working with Flash every day.

From where I stand, Flash hasn't changed all that much since it became a mainstream product some years back.

Sure, network connectivity and additional scripting has been added, but the interface is much the same and a long way from where Sparkle (combined with Microsoft .NET) is aiming. Flash is great, but it is by no means an industrial strength technology, can be unnecessarily time-consuming and inefficient, and doesn't - in my opinion, or at least at this point - come close to making the generational jump that is surely required for the next generation of websites and web applications.

And it will take a very big jump by Macromedia to even meet where Sparkle is starting from. And Sparkle is still two years away.

Sparkle was borne out of a product known as Expression 3 from software-developer, Creative House. Acquired by Microsoft a little while ago, Expression 3 was an industrial-strength vector rendoring engine even before Microsoft took it over

For Flash to match the capabilities of Expression 3 - let alone the inevitable integration of Expression 3 with Microsoft's Avalon graphics technology to be released with Windows Vista - will take serious development, especially to the authoring environment. As just one example, I've watched our designers labour over keyframes in Flash where Expression 3 allows the designer to simply move the camera around. Wow.

Either way, whether Sparkle is a competitor or a killer, it is going to force Macromedia to fast-forward Flash and its capabilities which can only be a good thing.

As some background, the always reliable Microsoft Watch has a piece on the technology and a thought on Microsoft's ambitions with Sparkle.