Sep 162005

I had look at the video presentation for MS sparkle, or as it’s officially titled, Expression Interactive Designer.

Previously when hearing about sparkle I figured it would probably not be anywhere close to living up to what it’s many times refered to, a “Flash killer”.
The picture I got in my mind was somewhere close to how the sparkle vs. Flash fight is portrayed in this animation.

Now I must say that I’m very impressed with what was shown of the application.
It sure don’t seem like a Frontpage vs. Dreamweaver scenario to me anymore, and sparkle does have some very tempting aspects to it that could make it a worthy competitor to Flash in some aspects.
Honestly I hardly considered the option that it could be better than Flash and that I would ever contemplate to use it.
I don’t hate MS for any other reason than that all the apps I used from them have been awful, and if they start putting out good applications I will not be adverted to them based on sentiment.

What really impressed me was the integration between code and design.
For me at least being able to see alterations made in code reflected instantly on the stage would be a great improvement for the workflow.
The resizable toolbars and pallets is a innovative feature, and although not that vital it’s a nice improvement to the usual workspace in most graphics apps nowadays.
I don’t get all that excited about the hardware acceleration and 3D capablities since I would normally not have that much need for them, but it’s of course welcome with any performance boost and the 3D stuff will come in handy in some cases.

Of course Flash will have the edge for web applications, at least for a few years to come.
That means that MM will have a chance to catch up in some areas where sparkle seems to be ahead.
I doubt sparkle will ever be able to get to a state where it has the same universial deployment capabilites as Flash, which is really the prime reason that I got into Flash in the first place.

Dissolving the borders between the web and desktop as well as between different platforms is where the future is at, and I don’t really swallow the talk about sparkle being for a different purpose than Flash.
For the user an application is an application, and if it needs to be downloaded and installed before it can be used or can’t run on certain platforms it’s just a drawback for that application.
In some cases you of course need access to the system in a way that would not be suitable to permit for web based content, but it’s for sure not two separate worlds anymore.
To be able to do like with a Flash based app and decide that “hey, I need access to the file system, so let’s publish this as a projector instead” is much better way of dealing with the separation needed between web based and desktop apps compared to have to use differrent tools and languages.
And no matter if you are targeting the desktop or the browser, universial deployment is in most cases a big bonus.

But of course MS want to tone down the “Flash killer” talk and focus on what sparkle actually might be capable of at the time of release.
That will be to enable developers used to the MS framework and designers to work better together to deliver products tageted at the newest generations of windows desktops.
Their long term goal is surely to be able to have a product that can rival flash as an application for merging the desktop and the web, and I’m sure they would love to have it working well on mac as well, just like with MS Word and IE.

I’m actually happy to see that it seems like Flash is getting what seems like it might be a worthy competitor, and I can’t wait to see what developers using sparkle will come up with when it is eventually released.


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