RIA’s will spawn a new breed of web based applications

Get ready folks, Rich Internet Applications (RIA’s) will soon have you doing things on the web which you thought were only possible with desktop applications. These new web based applications will soon have you collaborating in ways you never thought possible, increasing the overall efficiency of companies in many ways. Here are a few interesting reads which all point in this general direction:

What could this all mean? I have a few predictions:

  • As RIA alternatives begin to arrive on the scene in the next 1-2 years, progressive folks will stop using traditional desktop applications, including ALL Microsoft Office products.
  • Lighter weight RIA alternatives to traditional desktop applications will offer collaboration opportunities far beyond those which are available in their desktop counterparts.
  • Microsoft knows this trend is in the works, and will be mostly helpless to stop it until Windows Vista has greater market share.
  • Many of Microsoft’s big money making software titles will be threatened. Microsoft stock will take a big hit when this trend becomes clear to the masses.
  • Microsoft will find a way to create problems for RIA’s. A few possible scenarios:
    • The new version of IE will break existing AJAX RIA’s in subtle ways
    • The new version of IE wont play well with Flash, causing trouble for Flash based RIA’s like OpenLaszlo and Flex applications
    • Microsoft will create and bundle it’s own Flash player, breaking Flash based RIA’s which threaten their desktop application dominance.
  • SocialText and JotSpot will be leading the charge (if they don’t get acquired by Yahoo or Google first)

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “RIA’s will spawn a new breed of web based applications

  1. great comments.

    i think if Microsoft goes the route of upsetting everyone by changing the IE browser and thus breaking apps people love (like Google Maps), then more market share will be driven towards the oher browsers, like Mozilla. So this step by Microsoft may be counter-productive. Either way, Microsoft is losing their grip.

  2. As someone who’s been developing a desktop application for the past 3 years, I can say that the chances of desktop apps going away is pretty much nil. I’ve read all sorts of things about how web apps are the future, web apps solve all problems, only one bit of tech is needed to make web-apps super awesome.

    Here’s what gets overlooked:

    There are millions and millions and millions of lines of code deployed,
    right now, for internal IT applications both in gov’t and private sector using
    Visual Basic, Power Builder and Java Swing. These things aren’t going away,
    and they are being worked on my many more developers than work at Microsoft,
    Apple or any other commercial software vendor. Remember how a good third of
    all software that is developed is for the Department of Defense? Commercial
    software is not the majority of software that gets written.
    While Flash and DHTML certainly help make a web-app usable, you just
    cannot ask people to do data entry on a web-app. It’s too damn slow, by
    design. Add in the back button crap, the session-hacked-on-top-of-stateless
    protocol, and it’s just never going to compete with a desktop app for
    Desktop integration is just not even close with a web-app. A web-app
    can’t (easily) launch processes, access the local filesystem, or do any of the
    other things a desktop app can do without jumping through major hurdles and

    So, are web-apps totally pointless? Obviously not. But, a web-apps main
    (only?) advantage over desktop apps, ease of distribution, is not always the
    primary concern in solving someone’s problem. Obviously, desktop apps have
    their own issues, and problems they aren’t appropriate for solving. Both
    architectures are valid and needed, and neither is likely to go away.

    And come on, does anyone seriously think that a web-based version of
    Excel is likely to ever be written, much less exceed what Excel can do?
    And Word? Don’t even start on that one. Numerous open sourcers have been
    plugging away morning noon and night and they still can’t make a bullet
    list work right!

    Personally, I think “RIA”s will excel at beating other web-apps. Yahoo Maps
    was always OK, but Google Maps just crushes it. Yahoo Maps never sucked
    enough to bother paying for/finding/downloading desktop mapping software.
    Google closed the gap. That is what seems like the oppurtunity.

    (BTW, rather than write this in the time-tested TEXTAREA, I’m using two
    awesome desktop apps: MOZEX (pluging for firefox) and gVIM. Yeah!)

  3. Thanks for you comments, Dave! I totally agree with you, Big Business and the government wont be switching away from Desktop applications any time soon. Small business, being much more agile, will be the first group that realizes the efficiency to be gained by utilizing web based internet applications. I think BaseCamp, in particular, has shown this to be the case. Change is possible. Remember when us developers looked at the Mac as a silly platform only useful by the graphical designer zealots? Today, most of my developer friends who used to sing the virtues of Linux have switched to OS X. It’s just a matter of time…

  4. Hi chrisk,

    Thanks for the mention!

    As you’ve mentioned I’m working with OpenLaszlo, which produces .swf files that run in the Flash player. And the only thing I worry about in regards to that platform is, what will Microsoft do with Windows Vista?

    I don’t know if Win2k or Win98/Me included the Flash player, but Win XP did. That is obviously a MAJOR distribution method for the Flash player.

    MS probably included it so the users of their browser didn’t have to download it when they hit a web site with a Flash intro (remember those? 🙂 errr…. http://www.westgateresorts.com – management made us do it!). But now that Flash is more than a goofy ad-creator, will they feel threatened and retaliate?

    Version 8 (soon to be released) of the Flash player looks to have some really cool features, and I’d hate for it’s adoption to be slowed because MS decides not to include it in Vista.

    Thanks again for the mention!

  5. Dave C

    I’m a professional Excel VBA programmer, so I have a deep knowledge of Excel features, and I understand the utter terror with which a desktop programmer like me would view the demise of desktop apps.

    But I also realize the many benefits of a web-based model for many applications. Let’s be honest– much of the software that corporations pay to have developed is redundant, and can be handled by existing, generic systems.

    You might want to check out some of the web-based Excel and Word emulators now available. While these don’t quite achieve all the features and depth of the Microsoft products, they are impressively rich, and clearly the technology is maturing to the point of emulating any Microsoft feature. Zoho and ThinkFree, in particular, offer powerful features. Zoho includes web-based databases, slide-shows, conferencing, org planning, CRM, etc.


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