Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who leads the RIA space?. Adobe or Microsoft?

The battle for RIA market share is clearly intense between Adobe and Microsoft. Existing install base, browser/device support may indicate that Adobe is evidently leading the pack. However, Microsoft has its own advantages. I wouldn’t have thought in favor of Microsoft, had I not seen these wonderful Siverlight demos. It’s exciting and never before seen user experience in RIA space. I would love to see both of these companies to compete in the business applications market in addition to media/entertainment market.

In the recent Adobe MAX 2008 event, it has been announced that Adobe has plans to expand the collaboration with SAP. I see more advantage to SAP compared to Adobe in this deal. The key question to be asked is ‘How does Adobe leverage the experience of working with SAP to evolve its RIA product portfolio? Do they use that experience to nurture and mature the RIA platform, so that it becomes a preferred standard for developing RIA clients for critical business applications?

Apparently, Microsoft doesn’t need such a partnership because Microsoft itself is a provider in the Enterprise Business Applications/Infrastructure/Platform segment. (e.g. BizTalk, Microsoft Dynamics/Commerce Server & .NET framework)

The silver bullet that I see in Silverlight that has the potential to kill Adobe is the support for .NET framework. Building applications in Silverlight means that the developer can take advantage of the languages such as C#, VB, Python or Ruby, whereas Adobe has only one choice ActionScript. In the Silverlight 2, the Windows Presentation Framework has been fully integrated. Hence, the .NET developer base can take advantage of their existing skills to build new, powerful cross-browser Rich Internet applications or Windows applications using Silverlight. And remember, the .NET framework is built and time-tested to develop enterprise-class applications.

Adobe’s ActionScript is clearly evolving over the last few years to achieve the maturity required for building strong Enterprise client applications. I still remember the times in 2002 when I evaluated Macromedia Royale (the code name for Flex then) to transform a product’s user interface from its traditional HTML to RIA. Those days I believed RIA was a radical change. I still do, in the way web applications can be conceived and designed with RIA paradigm. But the difference is – We have more choices now in 2008, in addition to Flex.

Sure, Adobe has been aggressive. BBC has built its iPlayer using Adobe AIR. (AIR being an RIA & offline web app platform). Some of the Silverlight enabled Websites have migrated themselves to Adobe Flex. However, will it be sustainable to compete with Microsoft in the long run?

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