Get Ready. RIA’s are coming…
Talk to any application developer focusing on “keystrokes” (i.e., the coding of application functionality) — whether they’re a desktop, enterprise or Web app creator — and they’ll go on-n-on about the limitations of the Web browser as an interface and that they have to shoehorn stuff into this now primary front-end to internet-centric application functionality.
Next chat with any creative agency or firm that is focused on “brushstrokes” charged with the responsibility of design and delivery of Web-based user interfaces. You’ll hear their tales of woe about browser and platform incompatibilities, color and gamma differences and that synchronizing their graphical brushstroke creations with the back-end keystroke functionality is an ongoing and enormous challenge.
Enter Rich Internet Applications (RIA’s).
I’m a strong believer that the next generation of applications will be built — and are already being built — upon the platform known as the internet (i.e., that whole Web 2.0 meme). RIA’s will absolutely, positively accelerate and take internet application functionality far beyond today’s relatively simple DHTML/AJAX Web application approach.
One great example of an RIA (though arguably isn’t being positioned as such nor were any of the current RIA-type tools used to create it) is Apple’s iTunes and is useful to look at since it approximates what’s coming with RIA’s. It’s useful as a desktop app for organizing media, but is really useful when connected to the ‘net (downloading album art; buying music, TV and movies; subscribing and downloading podcasts, etc.).
One of my daily reads, Read/Write Web by Richard MacManus, has a short and sweet introduction post about RIA’s that’s worth reading and then go peek at some examples: here, here and here. For me, I’m personally pumped to deliver ebooks that act like self-updating publications (e.g., every time they’re launched they could go look for updated content over the ‘net) and ones that have self-contained media and application functionality (like dynamic slide shows, etc.) within them that could also be self-updating. Transaction functionality within it will be icing-on-the-cake.
Control and flexibility is strongly desired by both the keystrokers and the brushstrokers. Providing tools that synchronize, orchestrate and coordinate efforts is not a trivial challenge, but the payoff is so huge that the giants are chasing it.
AJAX apps (like Gmail) are a simple and limited development paradigm but is one that people are using right now since it’s a quick way to build desktop-like feel into a Web app. All the strategic level technical people I know have informed me that AJAX, while cool, isn’t a scalable, extensible or enabling methodology (and many have said, “AJAX is dead!”).
RIA’s are coming…and fast. Adobe bought Macromedia for a host of strategic reasons (e.g., Flash; richer PDF’s; web conferencing; platform for RIA’s) and Microsoft’s Design Tools division (disclaimer: it’s headed by a guy I’ve known for 20 years and whom I’d crawl through broken glass for, Doug Olson) are both driving toward the goal of delivering the enabling tools to empower creatives and developers so the next generation of RIA’s can be delivered.
The whole RIA paradigm is going to be a battle of the titans and will be interesting to see who wins the war for standards, protocols and approaches. Adobe/Macromedia has their rich history of design, desktop hegemony with enabling creative tools as well as the ubiquity of both PDF and Flash, while Microsoft has deeper technical acumen from desktop to server and will be much better at tools for the keystrokers. Either way it goes, we’ll all be better off with accelerating functionality delivered to our desktop, device or in-browser and the next leap forward will occur.
More information here:
- Adobe information is here
- Microsoft’s info is here
- I also wouldn’t dismiss OpenLaszlo which is now a fully supported, open source RIA development environment part of the Eclipse Foundation.
If you do nothing else, just keep one eye peeled for this small RIA stream flowing. Know that it’s raining like hell up in the mountains and this little stream is guaranteed to become a wall of water rushing toward you within the next 12-18 months. You’ve still got time to figure out how you’ll play (if you’re a keystroker or brushstroker) or what your company could deliver if you’re a strategist.
About Steve Borsch
SiteGround is 'The One'
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.