Microsoft Takes Aim at Adobe With Expression

Microsoft will divulge more details about its Expression Studio suite of design and developer tools at its upcoming Professional Developers Conference.

At its upcoming Professional Developers Conference next month, Microsoft Corp. will divulge more details about its Expression Studio suite of design and developer tools for the Windows Presentation Foundation, formerly code-named Avalon.

Expression Studio will consist of a design tool code-named Acrylic, a developer-oriented graphics tool code-named Sparkle and other components that will be delivered over time, sources said.

Microsoft will detail the features of Expression Studio at the PDC, but sources said that one of the goals of the suite is to keep development and design in the Microsoft camp and not concede the design space to Adobe Systems Inc. According to sources, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., is looking to push the Expression suite in lockstep with its Visual Studio developer tools suite to make designers key participants in the development process.

Microsoft officials said Acrylic will support the Microsoft XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language), but the company would not comment on Sparkle.

While Acrylic and Sparkle make up the core of the Expression line, sources said other key bets to round out the tool set include a photo image editor and possibly support for moviemaking or DVD creation.

Meanwhile, sources said parts of Sparkle, known in some circles as a "Flash killer," could ultimately become a set of system APIs in the Windows operating system. Specifically, these APIs could become part of the WPF graphics engine, which will be part of the upcoming Windows Vista and possibly available for Windows XP as a service pack.

"Were certainly always interested in what Microsoft does, but keep in mind that Flash, Photoshop and Fireworks are very mature products," said Kendall Whitehouse, senior director of IT at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. "The Flashs SWF file format is a very rich presentation format that remains sufficiently lightweight to keep downloads small and performance efficient. And, of course, its a cross-platform solution available on all major browsers and operating systems."

Mary Jo Foley contributed to this article.


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