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Windows on the Web
-- by Dave Raffo
Microsoft has taken the lead in yet another category by buying the expert. This time, the expert is San Francisco-based Java toolmaker Dimension X.
You'll see the results of the purchase in Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 beta, due out late this summer. IE 4.0 will incorporate Dimension X's Liquid Reality 3D browser tool and Java toolkit, and its Liquid Motion Pro animation toolset. Liquid Reality and Liquid Motion will also ship with Microsoft's DirectX Media Software Development Kit, enabling developers to create interactive media in IE.
Graphics created with Liquid Motion Pro are interactive, unlike the GIFs currently used for Web graphics. The not-yet-released Liquid Reality Composer lets you manipulate 3D objects in a Web site. Click on objects and toolbar buttons to add animation, sound, texture and lighting to the page.
"Web developers will be able to create user experiences that you see in CD-ROMs now," said Dimension X cofounder Karl Jacob. "A character comes out, befriends you and leads you through the Web site. You'll also see interactive Web games like the games you see on desktops now."
Microsoft's new Java tools will also affect business applications. Liquid Promotions, part of Liquid Motion Pro, allows Web developers to create small ad banners that download almost instantly and are fully interactive. Click on a banner for more information or even to conduct a transaction. The Dimension X products will also allow businesses to create interactive presentations, in which you can access up-to-date information from the company's database.