Macromedia Opens Incubation 'Labs'

Macromedia on Monday opened the doors to a new incubation site that hosts unfinished technology and early software releases. The goal of Macromedia Labs is to involve developers in the creation of new products, enabling them to provide feedback that can shape the company's future moves.

Specifically, Macromedia Labs will offer documentation, code samples and technical articles, along with community services such as forums and wikis. Podcasts from Macromedia engineers will further connect the company with its developer base and a special area called the "Showcase Gallery" will serve as a testing ground for those developers to trial their work.

As part of the debut of Labs, Macromedia has released an alpha build of Macromedia Flex Builder 2, which includes Flash Player 8.5. The Flex 2 product line is the company's next-generation suite of tools for developing atop the Flash platform, which was announced last June.

Flash Player 8.5, the backbone of the Flash platform, brings support for Flex 2 and builds upon version 8's ability to run scripts. 8.5 includes a new virtual machine with improved performance and ActionScript 3 in addition to full error reporting and industry standard debugging.

For backward compatibility, Flash Player 8.5 continues to support ActionScript version 1.0 and 2.0.

"Macromedia Labs represents an important shift in our development process, and is a great opportunity for developers to participate early in the rapid innovation of new technologies," said Kevin Lynch, chief software architect at Macromedia, in a statement. "We can now involve our customers earlier and more deeply than ever before."

Lynch notes that over time, Labs will feature experimental technologies and ideas from Macromedia's engineering team, and the work may not ever make it into an actual software product. Still, the idea is to foster "an even stronger community in which developers everywhere can share their vision and expertise."

An alpha of Flex Builder 2, formerly known by the code-name Zorn, is now available for download with Flash Player 8.5. Developers will need to first register with Macromedia Labs before accessing the prerelease bits.

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