Longhorn to 'Sparkle' With New Developer Tool

According to reports, Microsoft is busy sculpting the form of a potential Flash competitor code-named "Sparkle." Word has it that Redmond's tool will serve as a developer's front-end to build applications upon Longhorn's next generation Avalon graphics subsystem.

Avalon, which forms the roots for Microsoft's new Aero user experience, serves as the engine for Longhorn's user interface including the display of documents and rich media. A new markup language that finds its foundation in XML -- dubbed XAML -- will be utilized to design Avalon interfaces.

Sparkle is intended to automate the coding of XAML-based applications, according to sources. Speculation aside, however, there is not much else known about Microsoft's plans for XAML development.

Microsoft refused to comment on rumors, and said through a spokesperson, "Developers are excited about the work we're doing in Longhorn to enable a new generation of applications that are information-driven, built for a connected world, offer breakthrough user experiences and take full advantage of the latest PC hardware. Beyond that we don't comment on rumors."

Despite Redmond's tight lips, the rumor mill is whirling. Some sources have claimed that the analog clock found in Longhorn's sidebar is a product of Sparkle.

"Microsoft is bringing together its application and browser development model into one with Longhorn. That has to impact developers like Macromedia that have programs that plug into IE," Joe Wilcox, senior analyst for Jupiter Research, told BetaNews. "Conceivably, the change also could make something like Sparkle, which at this point appears to more oriented toward Longhorn's new graphics architecture, a competitor to Flash."

Before the industry sounds the death knell for Macromedia, Wilcox cautioned, "In many ways, Longhorn really doesn't exist yet, so it's guess work on everyone's part what Sparkle will do. Much will change based on developer feedback before the first beta ships, presumably next summer."

Macromedia Flash enjoys tremendous support from developers, and is a commonly installed plug-in to Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. The company is fresh off releasing an updated version of its MX software line that introduced, among other enhancements, a uniform user interface for Internet applications dubbed "Halo."

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