The still-maturing technology around Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) and rich media interfaces and video players was jolted last spring when Microsoft's Silverlight offering was unveiled. Already a Linux version is in the offing called Moonlight. The RIA news hit about the same time as the JavaOne and Web 2.0 Expo events were in full swing as well.
We used the timing to bring some IT analysts and experts together for a podcast discussion to examine the role of RIAs and rich media with SOA and the impact on the Enterprise 2.0 space. Join noted IT industry analysts Joe McKendrick, enterprise architect Todd Biske, and independent blogger Barb Darrow for our discussion, hosted and moderated by your's truly.
Here are some excerpts:
We seem to be moving beyond just the notion of an RIA into specific platforms, and/or approaches for doing this. We now have a slate of new products and approaches from Microsoft around the Silverlight brand. We also have news from Adobe about open-sourcing the Flex toolset that helps create content that’s supported on the ubiquitous Flash seamless download client through browsers. And, we've also seen Sun Microsystems pony up with the JavaFX scripting language, also designed for RIAs.Read the full transcript for more IT analysis and SOA insights. Listen to the podcast here.
Are RIAs are more than a sideline, and are they becoming a mainstream way of bringing content, data, and applications to users?
It’s a nice step up from the browser interface that we've all been accustomed to for the past decade now and very competitive with the fat-client concept of Microsoft Windows, which is still Microsoft’s bread and butter. To a large degree, they should feel threatened by this.
Two or three years ago, I was invited to a Microsoft technology summit, and they collected about 40 of us in Redmond. It was just a general discussion around some of the things that they were doing, but it was a series of diehard Java advocates, diehard Flash advocates and diehard Linux advocates. It was an interesting exercise just to listen to what they had to say. Microsoft was really trying to hear what would make Microsoft more attractive.
I don’t know whether coming out with a direct competitor to Flash is going to make it any more attractive in the eyes of the Flash developers, but I think certainly playing to their strengths in the existing Microsoft development community, and bringing in some of the best practices of the other development communities, is a smart move on their part. That’s why I think Silverlight will continue to play a role.
We went from green screens all the way to these rich desktop environments. Then, we went back to just the HTML forms, and you knew that pendulum was going to start to shift back towards the center again, that users were going to need higher levels of interaction and capabilities on that Web-based platform. I think this is just indicative of that trend.
In enterprise circles, it’s much more about AJAX than it necessarily is about Flash. Then, you have Silverlight, and now JavaFX Script, which I think are more in the same category as Adobe Flash, than targeting the AJAX world. I've yet to see an enterprise application focused on Flash development. It seems to have much more of a place either in content distribution or the general Internet space. Still, it’s gaining at least mind share, and so we’ll have to see whether this begins to make a push more to the corporate enterprise world.
This whole move to rich clients is interesting. I cover IBM software, and I've got to give them credit. IBM has been talking about this for a while. There’s this kind of contention between new kids coming up, who are used to downloading everything they want and doing mashups -- they grew up this way. And then there's this traditional IT environment that constrains from above what you can do. In that spot, IBM has a little bit of credibility. IBM is trying hard to adopt this mashup/social networking thing going forward, but I'm just wondering. Are they a player here?
IBM does things in a big way, and I've seen them doing a lot of work in this area, in terms of Wikis and blogging. They're even getting involved in the whole second-life scenario. They have a way of moving into these markets in a very big way, and I don’t see them ignoring the whole Web 2.0. Like everyone else, they're piloting things, seeing how it fits in with the enterprise.
IBM probably needs to have some activity in this place soon, because, on one hand, we can look at Microsoft and Google, and they are both application providers outside of the Lotus space. IBM is not an application provider in the same sense. So, some of the things that you see Microsoft doing with Microsoft Live and the Google applications, I wouldn’t expect to see any big push from IBM.
Another thing that struck me at JavaOne this year was the dearth of announcements from other major Java-oriented vendors, and I'm thinking of IBM, BEA, and Oracle. It was really a silence, and what I think has happened is that Sun waited for so long to declare its intention for Java, and then to open-source it under GPL Version 2, that they lost the community. Now, the community is off doing things under Eclipse, Apache, SourceForge, OSSI, or whatever. So, the momentum of the community and the ecology for Java was lost, as Sun basically sat on the fence, trying to figure out how to make more money from Java. I don’t think it’s something they're going to recover from.
This comes back to the whole notion of the client side of this. Will Java, as a development platform, have a role in the development of the client side? It’s well established on the server side, and that’s not going to change any time soon, but what is the future of the client platform, and will it be a case of these RIAs coming down into the enterprise?
Or, will we continue to see a separation of "Here are things down in the content-heavy world of the Internet" and "Here is the corporate world?" Even in the corporate world, either you’re building Microsoft applications, because that’s what’s on everybody’s desktop, or you're building Web-based applications. More and more of the presentation technologies are going towards AJAX, rather than anything you're doing in Java JSP.
Maybe there's a third way on this, and that would be that you go for the minimalist, when you are dealing with data, transactions, and workflow issues, but there is a whole other side of enterprise productivity around collaboration, learning, discovery, and knowledge transfer. These videos and rich media, be it text, audio, or video, whichever you choose, or all three, could be very powerful. We could see instances where we are going to get both. We are going to get a lot of minimalist widgets, but we’ll also get lots of rich, movie-grade video, when it comes to the other side of the equation, which is not dealing with machines and data, but dealing with people.
Produced as a courtesy of Interarbor Solutions: analysis, consulting and rich new-media content production.