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Microsoft moves Chromeffects onto back-burner

Great Stan suspends development of Web graphics technology, perhaps to avoid antitrust trouble

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Microsoft has suspended the development of Chromeffects, its much-heralded Web-oriented 3D and multimedia technology. Technically, the technology isn't dead, but it's now seems highly unlikely it will see light of day in its current form. "We are stepping back and redesigning Chromeffects to better meet both our partner and customer needs," was the spin Microsoft put on the news. The decision was made "based on developer feedback". Announced in July, Chromeffects development work was recently put under Microsoft's DirectX development group. Chromeffects were designed to leverage DirectX's game-oriented technology into the Web, so the move made a lot of sense. Key to Chromeffects was the use of Extended Markup Language (XML), the Microsoft-sponsored planned successor to HTML. XML allows almost any type of data to be formatted and displayed in a Web page through simple text commands, just as HTML uses text commands to format text and graphics. Chromeffects used XML to send low bandwidth commands to the client browser which would then use DirectX to generate high bandwidth 3D graphics. It's not dissimilar to the approach being taken by the like of iD Software with the next generation of multiplayer games. Quake III Arena, for instance, keeps Net traffic to an absolute minimum, instead relying on the client to do more of the work calculating where objects will be and how to render them. However, the DirectX managers now seem to have decided they don't, after all, want to pursue this line of development. Chromeffects project lead, Eric Engstrom, Microsoft's general manager for multimedia, has been moved to the company's MSN portal operation, where he will become general manager for Web product development. Whatever Chromeffects work that will continue will become the responsibility of Deborah Black, general manager of Windows presentation technologies. She will also take over work on NetShow, Microsoft's streaming media technology. Re-labelling NetShow as a 'presentation' project from a 'multimedia' project reveals Microsoft's thinking behind the culling of Chromeffects. Given the pasting the company has had during the current DoJ trial from Apple software VP Avie Tevanian for its efforts to knobble QuickTime, and similar complaints from streaming media specialist RealNetworks, its hard not to see all this manoeuvring as a response to the antitrust case. Changing NetShow's designation makes it appear less obviously a threat to multimedia technologies like QuickTime and RealPlayer. Chromeffects competed with both these products and every other dynamic Web technology, such as Macromedia's Flash and Shockwave, and even Java, and that's not something Microsoft wants right now. ® Full Register trial coverage

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