Introducing the Flash Communication Server (Page 1 of 4 )
Macromedia Flash has evolved from a way to easily create and distribute lightweight animated graphics on the Web to a rich application platform. Macromedia reported that Flash Player 6 was available on more than 94% of Internet-accessible workstations in Canada, the United States, and Europe as of June 2004. Availability in Asia exceeded 92%. Flash Player 7 penetration ranged from 67% in the U.S. to 81% in Europe. (For the latest statistics, see http://www.macromedia.com/software/player_ census/flashplayer/version_penetration.html.) Flash Player 6 and 7 provide some remarkable capabilities to the hundreds of millions of machines on which they are already installed. With the userís consent, a Flash movie can capture real-time audio and video from the machineís microphone or web cam and stream it to Flash Communication Server MX. (Here we use the term movie to refer to .swf files. We use the term video for visual content streamed from the server.) The server can redistribute the streams to other users who have the Flash Player. The resulting real-time communications make it possible to develop a remarkable range of compelling applications. The Flash authoring tool and the Flash Communication Server MX can be used to create:
Highly customized video conferences, team meetings, and web chats with shareable components such as versioned text areas, whiteboards, and instant polls
Video- and data-on-demand applications with rich user interfaces that can include closed captions and skinnable controls
Live event broadcasting with customizable user interaction such as moderated chat and question/answer components
Multiplayer games, simulations, and other applications with the added value of audio and video if required
Flash and the Flash Communication Server MX (FlashCom) provide a rich development environment in which applications that clearly match requirements can be created without an outrageous investment in development time. The Flash Player and FlashCom support a rich set of objects that make sharing real-time audio, video, and data remarkably simple. In addition, Flash provides a set of user interface components such as the DataGrid, Tree, ComboBox, Accordion, and MenuBar, among others. The Flash authoring tool includes a full complement of tools for manually or programmatically generating vector graphics and animations, making it possible to create unique and rich custom user interfaces that can present and update data including audio and video. See the Preface for additional important details about the video delivery options made available by Flash and the FlashCom Server.