Macromedia's Shockwave and Flash multimedia players are soon to come pre-installed with every copy of Microsoft 's Windows 98.
Typically, such players are distributed with browsers. Netscape Communications recently announced that its forthcoming browsers would also offer the players pre-installed.
However, by bundling the plug-ins with the operating system, Windows 98 users will also be able to have streaming audio, video, and vector graphics in games and other non-Internet-based media.
Analysts said developers are cautious about implementing any content on a Web site that requires users to obtain a plug-in.
"The biggest challenge is trying to sell creative tools where there is a step between arriving at a site and consuming its content. For Macromedia, this is a very good deal," said Seema Williams, an analyst at Forrester Research, a market research company in Cambridge, Mass.
The plug-in barrier has been an issue for many Web developers.
"That's definitely been a consideration. We are seriously going to start developing for Flash now," said Darren Jones, associate producer for E Online, in Los Angeles.
The Macromedia players will actually be accessible under the system Control Panels and not in the browser plug-in folder. Currently, there are no plans to do the same for the Macintosh OS, according to Macromedia.
By making the plug-ins system resources, Microsoft could be seen as further blurring the line between the operating system and the browser, analysts said. Tying Web technologies to the operating system has been part of the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust case against the company.
"They've been aggressive about that with their own technologies, but it's interesting that they're willing to do it for a third party," said Ross Rubin, group director at Jupiter Communications, in New York. And Forrester's Williams is considering how this deal better positions Microsoft.
"We're still wondering if there's another shoe waiting to drop," Williams said. "Microsoft doesn't do things because they look good."
Macromedia Inc., in San Francisco, is at http://www.macromedia.com/.