There’s always a lot of back and forth between the Flash crowd and the Silverlight crowd. And that’s fine, everyone needs an enemy and competition ends up driving everyone to have better features, better performance, and a better platform. But one of the things I’ve always thought was that Microsoft’s entry into the RIA space would end up being good for everyone. Microsoft has a lot of developers but there are also a lot of developers who don’t like and won’t use a Microsoft solution. Those people also need RIAs.
According to the Gartner MarketScope on RIAs it looks like Microsoft jumping into RIAs pushed adoption across the board in 2009. I don’t have the full report yet but here’s the quote from the blog post that stood out:
Now that Microsoft has validated “heavy RIA” in the eyes of many enterprises, interest in RIA technologies is increasing across the board. Frequent Gartner inquiries indicate that clients pit Ajax vs. Flash vs. Silverlight against each other in evaluations for new RIA projects. What does this mean for JavaFX and other technologies? Tough to say for sure, but my bet is that the “heavy RIA” arena comes down to a battle between Adobe and Microsoft, and that there is enough room in the market for both to be successful.
This isn’t supposed to be a happy-feelgood post. I want Adobe and our community to kick ass and continue to be the leaders in the RIA space. But I’m glad Microsoft is raising awareness; it helps when we can talk about why our platform is better for RIAs and not go back to what RIAs are .
I’m stoked about 2010. Especially if it’s a battle between Ajax, Flash, and Silverlight. We’re starting to get a big lead in mobile, AIR continues to do well as a desktop RIA solution, and we’re starting to monetize our own RIAs with services like Acrobat.com. There’s been a slight trend towards “native” which is being led by the iPhone, but don’t discount the persistent desire to create rich, desktop-like experiences with all of the flexibility and scope of the web. The web is still going to win and RIAs will be a big part of that.
Photo by Flickr user jal33
Gartner recently released it’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies and ReadWriteWeb has some good analysis. For those who aren’t familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle , it’s essentially a map of technologies over five phases. Those phases correspond with the value of a particular technology. As you would imagine, technologies start off very exciting with a ton of hype. As reality sets in, the hype dies down, and people end up underestimating the technology (this is the Trough of Disillusionment). Finally people start to figure out both the true value of a technology and how to use it effectively and it enters the Plateau of Productivity.
I’ve always thought the Flash Platform provided the best way to experiment with emerging technologies and provided companies with a widespread distribution on which to experiment and test these technologies. Our community also has the most cutting edge and creative developers, so Flash has a built in advantage that you guys just try things first. As a result, I’ve always tracked this particular Hype Cycle to plot it against the Flash communities interests. I’ve mapped out the hype cycle below and then explained in detail which technologies relate to projects or capabilities of the Flash Platform
- Video Search – This is something we’ve been working on for a while. The latest version of Flash Media Server supports adding searchable metadata to live streams so you can make live video searchable.
- Surface Computers – Surface computing is all about the multi-touch. We’ve got you covered with Flash.
- Augmented Reality – The guys over at Spark have been doing this for a while with their port of the FLARToolkit. And we’re seeing a lot of examples of augmented reality and Flash.
- Internet TV – This can mean a bunch of different things, but I take it to mean internet connected TVs (of course just Internet TV like Hulu is also covered by Flash). While Adobe isn’t in the TV hardware business, we are working on Flash Player for television sets with our Digital Home initiative. That means Flash Platform developers can target these internet connected TVs.
- E-Book Readers – We’re not working on our own eBook Reader, but the EPUB format is becoming an eBook standard for consuming digital book content. And we’ve got software like Digital Editions, a desktop eBook Reader.
- Video Telepresence – arguably not the most cutting edge, but Gartner predicts that video telepresence will cost the travel industry $3.5 billion annually by 2012 and Adobe Connect is a slick little product that does a lot and works everywhere the Flash Player is installed.
- Online Video – Hopefully this one doesn’t need any backup. Flash IS video on the web.
- Public Virtual Worlds – A bit of a stretch but Flash is powering a number of virtual worlds including SmallWorlds and AllGirlArcade’s Spark City. The collaboration feature, interactivity, and runtime proliferation make the Flash Platform a pretty good place to deploy virtual worlds.
- SOA – LiveCycle ES is all about SOA and it makes it easy for companies to integrate existing systems and leverage them as services.
What’s interesting is that most of what I perceived as being tied to the Flash Platform in some way is all at the left side of the curve, in the areas of huge hype or in the middle of the Trough of Disillusionment. On the bright side, the timeframe for most of these technologies to hit the mainstream is in the 2-10 year mark. That seems like an eternity in the technology industry, but it means you can get the first mover advantage as these technologies hit the Plateau of Productivity.