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Next-Generation RIAs: Future Directions for Rich Internet Applications

Technologies to build RIAs will need to appeal to a wider range of developers

Simon Whatley's Blog

Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) are just the beginning. A key trend taking place throughout the Web industry is the urgency to integrate disparate systems and software tools to reduce costs, increase developer productivity, reduce the need for manual processing and intervention in transactions, and decrease time to market.
To achieve these objectives, organizations have endorsed the adoption of standards-based systems (e.g. XML, Design Patterns, CSS, ECMAScript) combined with the migration to Web Services and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This has led to a requirement to create a consistent and intuitive interface to applications, data and services.

The immediate goal of these efforts is to provide simpler, quicker and more efficient access and processing of information. Increasingly, Web applications are also offering customers application interfaces that are more personalised and customised to each individual’s specific requests and requirements.

It is clear that RIAs offer the potential to fundamentally change the user experience and in doing so, yield significant business benefits. However, in order for RIAs to be widely employed, and for more companies to receive these kinds of returns, technologies to build RIAs will need to appeal to a wider range of developers.

The ability to cost effectively create rich, engaging user experiences that support corporate objectives and reach a broader developer audience without sacrificing development productivity require a new generation of RIA tools. These tools are being developed by a large number of organizations with Adobe (AIR/Flash/Flex) , Microsoft (Silverlight ), Google (Gears), Apple (QuickTime) and Sun (JavaFX) leading the way.

The new generation of RIA tools being developed by the likes of Adobe and Microsoft must do the following to allow developers to truely harness the power of RIAs in the commercial environment:

  1. Allow developers to write applications using familiar development models to utilise and extend their current skills without requiring them to adopt entirely new or different skills
  2. Use standard and standards-based technologies
  3. Use industry specific programming models and patterns
  4. Use and/or leverage the existing IT infrastructure through wrap and reuse rather than rip and replace
  5. Provide pervasive, familiar programming models and an expressive user interface across platforms and devices; and
  6. Allow developers to create a solution that delivers scalable, secure, high performance solutions that are bandwidth efficient

These new RIA tools will need to provide the features that enhance IT developers' abilities to be more creative and to accomplish RIA development with the same or less effort than the tools they use to create other types of applications. What is required are the tools that can help developers achieve these objectives without relying on only HTML or other scripting languages, or having to learn a completely new development approach.

Two vendors which have the technology and capaibility to fully deliver Rich Internet Applications are Adobe and Microsoft. With Microsoft’s Silverlight and XAML, developing rich internet applications to run on Windows platforms will progress at a fast rate. In turn, Adobe has had a head start with the aquisition of Macromedia and the subsequent addition of Flash and Flex to its product offering. Flash and its relative ubiquity across platforms and devices ensures that RIA development and production will be accessible to a large user base and as such puts Adobe at a distinct advantage over Microsoft.

More Stories By Simon Whatley

Simon Whatley is a professional web application developer, architect and trainer based in London, United Kingdom. He has worked in web development for a number years and has extensive knowledge of Adobe technologies, particularly ColdFusion, Flex and Spry. Whatley also dabbles with other technologies such as Java and Ruby and his online musings can be found at http://www.simonwhatley.co.uk.

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