Developer

Metaliq flexes its creative expression

Metaliq build applications with Flex and Silverlight -- leaving them in the interesting position of playing two sides of the rich Internet application platform field.

Metaliq are a 20 person shop in San Francisco that focuses on developing for the Web; they hit notoriety by demonstrating their Top Banana product at this year's MIX07 keynote.

Built in a matter of weeks, not months, this snappy little video editing tool impressed all with its tabletop interface and ease of use. What wasn't told to the assembled audience was that Metaliq also build applications with Flex and Apollo — leaving them in the interesting position of playing two sides of the rich Internet application platform field.

"The Apollo concept is nice for certain sites and projects," says Metaliq's CEO and founder Beau Ambur. Ambur says that Apollo is underused and has the benefits of being able to work offline and that any Flash developer can work with it.

With Silverlight, "it's the managed code that makes all the difference," Ambur says. "All the things in Flash are in Silverlight".

Not that Metaliq will be choosing one technology over another any time soon, for the short term they will continue to use both products, as Ambur says both have their place.

Ambur says for Flash, it has been out a lot longer, is more polished and has some nice visual effects; multithreading and options in languages are Silverlight's strong points.

Posed with a choice between Flex and Silverlight for a rapid deployment platform, Ambur says that he would use Flex when there is more data interaction needed, for instance the creation and computation of graphs is easier in Flash than in Silverlight . Conversely Ambur says he would choose Silverlight for more video intensive projects, where there would be more states and chrome.

Metaliq worked with Microsoft's new Expression suite of tools when creating Top Banana. Ambur says that the team found that "integration is there with designers working with coders. The coders would be using Visual Studio, which is imposing to some designers, and the designers would be using Blend".

Expression is "similar enough," says Ambur, to existing Adobe products such that there is "no learning curve for the basics for designers".

Ambur is not without criticism though — "In Flash it is easier for a designer to become a basic coder and learn how to 'abuse the code'. With Expression you have to go into Visual Studio to code, that's a big barrier for designers". Ambur added that he thought Expression needs to have a coding environment similar to one for Actionscript in Flash.

Despite Expression's claim to bring greater integration for designer and developer, "if the developer doesn't understand the design then you are screwed. Your round corners could suddenly become square corners — sometimes coders need to have a designer's eye," says Ambur. "You have to understand each other enough to communicate."

About Chris Duckett

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

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