The Guardian looks beyond the browser and sees, among other things, Macromedia Central.
Web applications have become increasingly complex. Not only are users looking for more interactivity, they also need to be able to work on and offline. Web architectures also make it difficult for web applications to monitor changes and deliver alerts and changes, and for applications to connect to each other.
Companies such as Macromedia and Microsoft are working on tools to solve these problems, tools that still use web technologies to work with servers, but behave much more like traditional desktop applications than a browser. Known as smart clients, or rich web clients, these build on familiar technologies such as Flash or Windows Forms, as well as using web services and XML.
Flash is still limited to the browser. In March, Macromedia announced it was working on a new technology that would turn Flash into a tool for delivering rich applications to end-user desktops. Central is due to be launched by the end of the autumn. It is a two-part system: a set of development tools and a simple desktop application you use to find and install (and purchase) new applications.
What sort of applications are people building? One thing Macromedia has discovered from the beta is that developers are using Central to provide front ends for web services, such as applications to give you weather information, or help you find restaurants. You don’t need to build a new back-end application, as long as you can deliver XML to Central.