Allaire on Lookout for Hot Technologies

In an exclusive interview, former Macromedia CTO Jeremy Allaire talks about what he feels are the industry's hot trends.

Jeremy Allaire, an industry thought leader and software visionary, left his job as chief technology officer at Macromedia Inc. this year to become technologist-in-residence at Cambridge, Mass.-based venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners. Prior to joining Macromedia, Allaire was a founder of Allaire Corp., which merged with Macromedia. Allaire Corp. built the popular ColdFusion development environment. This week, eWEEK Senior Writer Darryl K. Taft caught up with Allaire at the RVC Softedge 2003 conference in New York for a rare interview.

Whats life been like since you left Macromedia?

Its been great. Im getting to spend a great deal of time working with early-stage companies on their technology strategies. Im getting to look into dozens of new markets and areas of interest. So its been a lot of fun from that perspective.

Whats hot then? What trends are you looking at?

In general Im sort of looking for opportunities that take advantage of several trends. There are a number of trends that on their own are very interesting, such as broadband adoption. Wireless networks are growing, and the opportunity for wireless applications is very real now. The software platform from the devices and the availability of the wireless networks, whether thats Wi-Fi or 2.5G networks, are creating opportunities. Web services adoption is very real. The platforms are mature. Whats particularly interesting for me, though, are companies that are taking advantage of the convergence of those. So, a company thats taking advantage of new devices with rich client software, leveraging Web services in the network, leveraging the availability of wireless or leveraging the availability of broadband and building applications or products or services that take advantage of that. So those are some of the kinds of things that Im looking at.

Any particular companies?

Theres a well-known company called Jamdat [Mobile Inc.]. Theyre already very well financed. But this is an early market, so I think theres going to be opportunities for many companies in this space. Another example of an area that Ive been looking at is the growth in Wi-Fi inside of corporations and in public areas, creating an opportunity for dual-mode handsets. I mean mobile devices like mobile phones that have both traditional cellular but also have Wi-Fi, and then how do you bridge between the Wi-Fi and cellular worlds and take advantage of standards like SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] and VoIP [voice over IP] to get really high-quality in-building coverage on voice? So Im looking, for example, at a company that is going to bridge the world of Wi-Fi and cellular with a product thats really geared toward carriers and that takes advantage of next-generation handsets that are already being specd by companies like Motorola and TI and others.

What about in the development space? Do you see any big trends going on? Whats your take on this whole move toward service-oriented architectures?

I think there are definitely evolutionary things happening on the development side. And certainly some startups are taking advantage of that. So thats very real. I think an area which I certainly spent a lot of time on at Macromedia, which is the rich Internet application space where were moving toward rich clients, were just starting to see that really heat up. So both Macromedia is having some good success with that and those platforms are getting richer.

And in three weeks we suspect Microsoft is going to introduce Avalon, which is the rich client environment based on .Net that will be part of the new operating system. So I think were going to see renewed interest in rich Internet apps going outside of the browser, beyond the browser with these richer graphical interfaces that blend media and communications.

Do you see Microsofts entry as potentially troublesome to companies like Macromedia and Adobe?

No. The fact of the matter is I think Microsoft will certainly provide platform technology in this space. They dont really have a history of building development tools and design tools that focus on that audience. So I think while their runtimes will continue to improve, and that creates an opportunity for companies like Macromedia and Adobe. The other thing is that this is many, many years away for Microsoft. Even though they may go into a preview release later this fall, its going to be 2005 or 2006 before Longhorn ships, and then its going to take at least three years before it gets to even 50 percent adoption. And thats probably aggressive because its such a radical shift of their client operating system. So youre really talking about four years out. And thats a lot of runway for companies that are in this space right now. So, if anything, Microsoft introducing that this is an important direction is going to validate that space and bring a lot more attention to it. And people will look at it and see whats available today, whats going to be available over the next two to three years and how do we get there.

In your Web log when you left Macromedia you said youd still be involved with the company in some capacity. Have you done anything with them?

I have a role as founder emeritus, which is sort of just a title, but essentially Ive done a few things. Ive done some speaking on behalf of Macromedia at some developer-related conferences. Ive done and continue to do writing for their developer community. And I still consult with key product team members and product teams on strategy. And actually an interesting new dynamic is Im coming across a lot of really interesting young companies that have embraced Macromedia platform technology and are building interesting value-added businesses. And so Im beginning to act as sort of a business development conduit, for certain types of things, for the company.

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