IT & Politics: Rich Internet Applications

10.12.09

Rich Internet Applications
Rich Internet Applications (RIA) - is not just a beautiful user interface. It is also the possibility to use such technologies as voice, video, screen-sharing, vector graphics (e.g. for whiteboarding). It means high interactivity and real-time collaboration. It also means high speed, because RIA platforms allow web applications directly access computer resources. Therefore, the struggle for control over RIA technologies is even more serious than for offline access technologies that we covered in the previous post. And just like in the case with offline access, here we see the same political games around the HTML5 implementation.

Due to the lack of open unified standards for working with media content, for interaction between application and Web server, for computer resources access, existing browsers are pretty bad "containers" for RIA. That's why various plug-ins and platforms (such as Flash, Java or Webex Player) appeared .They need to be installed first to let the web application work. HTML5 promises to strengthen the browser position in this sphere, but so far it's under development, there is a struggle for the market between the major players.

Adobe (Flash)
When talking about Rich Internet Applications, the first thing to remember is Adobe Flash, which is now installed on 98% computers in the world. Flash works on almost all platforms and devices. Even Google, that doesn't like proprietary technologies, uses Flash (e.g. on Youtube). Adobe has created a huge infrastructure around Flash for developing and maintaining Internet applications (AIR, Flex, Flash Builder, Media Interactive Server, Streaming Server). Adobe earns big money on it and HTML5 for Adobe - is as an eyesore.

Microsoft (Silverlight, S+S)
A couple of years ago Microsoft  (instead of waiting for the open HTML5) decided to create its own Flash - Silverlight. While the Microsoft primary strategy, S + S, neglects the need for RIA (since a full-fledged desktop applications is running), but the company realized that some web applications still need to work in a browser. Of course, meanwhile Silverlight is not so popular as Flash but it has a very good chance chance of success. Because Microsoft begins to create web applications that require Silverlight installation, for example, Microsoft Office Web Applications.

Google (Ajax, Native Client, HTML5)
Google is trying to utilize everything that open web technologies can offer. And they created some cool Rich-applications using Ajax. But because of the existing technology the company has to find other ways. For example, for the video chat in GMail they created its own browser plug-in. And in order to provide web-applications access to computer resources Google is working on the Native Client platform. But most likely, in future, the company will phase out its own developments in favor of open HTML5.

Apple (iPhone)
The same as in the case with offline access, Apple has a power over other IT-giants due to its closed iPhone platform. For example, Adobe has already agreed about Flash support with all manufacturers of mobile devices, accept Apple. iPhone browser doesn't even support Ajax properly. Want a Rich-interface? Develop iPhone App. But Microsoft, seems to somehow find a way to iPhone. They have already demonstrated the demo of Silverlight for iPhone this November.

Oracle (Java)
Open Jave platform was developed by Sun, which was acquired by Oracle this year. Java-applets are supported by most Web browsers and mobile devices (JavaFX). They are widely used in the enterprise portals and other applications developed by IBM, Oracle and SAP. At present, the convergence of enterprise software applications and the cloud apps takes place. So it will be interesting to watch how this heavy corporate Java technology will compete with lightweight Flash, Silverlight and HTML5.