A potential Flash-killer is among the topics Microsoft will highlight at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this week, according to analysts who follow the software giant.

The PDC, which starts Tuesday in Los Angeles, is Microsoft's biennial meeting for its development community, and typically provides developers with code samples of the company's major new and upcoming product releases.

A new tool set for graphics and animation, code-named Sparkle, is widely expected to be demonstrated at the conference, analysts said. Though Microsoft remains mum on the details, word on the street is that Microsoft will demonstrate the software, expected to be similar to Macromedia's multimedia development tools such as Flash, at the PDC.

Rikki Kirzner, a partner with research firm Hurwitz & Associates, said she has seen a preview of Sparkle. Though she was not at liberty to disclose specific features, she said she was "very impressed" with the tool, which "takes the good elements from" Macromedia's graphics- and animation-building tools to give Microsoft developers similar capabilities.

However, we should note that Microsoft's Acylic graphics application was originally dubbed a 'Photoshop-killer' in some quarters, but turned out to be aimed at consumers and businesses rather than graphics professionals.