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The Hybrid/RIA War: Adobe’s Open Screen Project

Today’s announcement by Adobe of the Open Screen Project has been well covered in the blogosphere. What hasn’t been well covered is the story-behind-the-story and that this is a major salvo in the hybrid application war.

I’ve written before about the rich, internet application (RIA) space (here, here and here for example) and the momentum being built behind the tools, approaches and delivery containers with content, data and functionality mashed up and delivered in a hybrid manner.

As the world is increasingly connected and broadband/wireless speeds increase (and device types proliferate with internet connectivity), the demand for more and more functionality integrating the desktop and the internet is accelerating and the major vendors (and open source ones) are trying to figure out how to empower us to create and deliver new digital assets that customers will value and buy.

What isn’t discussed much is the now primarily covert ‘war’ underway between Adobe with Flash (and AIR, Media Player, et al), Microsoft with Silverlight, Apple with WebKit (though little has been intimated publicly on what they might do in the RIA space or how they might leverage the stealth Quicktime installs on Windows with iTunes and the recent Safari Windows release) and Mozilla’s Prism. All are focused on how to provide a winning environment upon and within which content creators, developers and strategists can deliver ever higher value and create competitive advantage for they and their companies. Whoever pulls that off will win.

Four very different approaches, market positioning, tools to create and develop, and overall go-to-market plans (most of which an outsider can only guess at) but the promise of RIA’s is huge for applications and for us, whether we want to create-n-deliver or just enjoy the fruits of the labors of others: replacement for current web apps; completely new categories; and even one area we’re already exploring in my company, a new type of subscription/self-updating ebook that RSS feeds, video and audio automagically appear within when a subscriber opens it and is connected to the ‘net.

Who will win? I don’t know yet but the winner will be the one with the best tools, the largest runtime container distribution, and the most support from the ecosystem surrounding them. The momentum is with Adobe but, then again, it was with Apple in 1980 at the dawn of the personal computing industry, and we know how that turned out.