Tools & Toys

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Here's an interesting concept: software that takes Web developers beyond the browser. Beyond the browser? Is there really life beyond the browser? Yes, and that's exactly where Tribeworks is heading.

This small San Francisco startup makes iShell, an Internet-enabled, browser-independent, cross-platform, interactive multimedia development tool. iShell is a full-featured program, capable of handling sound, music, QuickTime video, animations, text and user input. Launched from the desktop, iShell completely bypasses the constraints of the browser. In its place, designers can create a simple, elegant, branded-media player. As media companies continue to explore ways to deliver video content and music over the Internet, a "lite" media player created in iShell creates a pervasive presence on the desktop.

Running on the Internet, iShell provides a powerful way to reach out to an audience, connect them across the Web, and keep them updated with fresh information from a dynamically generated database. Applications for iShell include Internet-connected public kiosks, full-screen streaming video, flash animations, interstitial advertising, distance learning, live news feeds, video jukeboxes, interactive promotions and e-commerce. The iShell development interface clearly separates the role of the designer from that of the programmer. Pull-down menus allow developers to create iShell applications by specifying features, functions and behaviors from a list of options without knowing a line of code.

Designers should love the fact that iShell doesn't depend on a Netscape or Internet Explorer browser to deliver its content. Designers now have complete creative control of the look and feel of the user experience.

Separate onscreen video windows can be defined and targeted so video can play on different parts of the screen. iShell applications are dragable, so they can be moved around the user's monitor, or can be expandable to full screen. An iShell application can even be made to appear transparent, so the user's desktop shows through. The experience is immersive and engaging.

Moreover, iShell is QuickTime-native, so it's built from the ground up to handle delivery, streaming, and downloading of video content, including QuickTime VR. That should come as no surprise, since the founder of Tribeworks, Duncan Kennedy, is a refugee from Apple's QuickTime for Windows team - a perfect background from which to address issues of cross-platform compatibility.

The program is downloadable for free (can't beat that) at Already, 25,000 developers have take advantage of the offer. The software comes with a surprisingly small footprint, on the order of 600 kb.

Tribeworks plans on making money by offering enhanced features and support based on a yearly subscription service, as well as by taking on large-scale custom solutions for corporations.

This juke joint could be jumpin'.

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