The Internet has emerged from obscurity to become a dominant platform for application development and is integral to the idea of Software as a Service (SaaS). Unfortunately the demand to build applications of increasing complexity has continued to outpace the ability of traditional Web applications to represent that complexity and expectation. Utilisation of AJAX technologies attempts to reconcile some of the issues, but frequently the result is a frustrating, confusing or disengaging user experience resulting in unhappy customers, lost sales, and increased costs.
We are in a period of expanding opportunity for Internet and intranet applications. The growth in adoption and usage of the Internet has acted as a driver behind technology spending, spawned such terms as Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Web Services, and enterprise integration trends that seek to combine back-office infrastructures with new front-office applications and the Internet.
Integral to this is the need to communicate better with employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. Intranet applications, including enterprise information portals and employee facing applications, are increasingly depended upon to share information across a company, while outwardly focused extranet applications seek to more tightly bind networks of partners, suppliers and customers and make communication, business transactions and support easier.
A key reason Web applications cannot represent these types of complexity is because of the limitations of HTML pages. The Internet grew up on the notion of a network of loosely coupled, unintelligent clients that communicate with increasingly intelligent servers by sending requests for pages. The emergence of Rich Internet Applications (RIA‘s) has served to blur the distinction between the desktop and the Web and has resulted in smart, powerful and dynamic user interfaces. RIA‘s seek to combine the best of the desktop, Web and communication technologies.
As one would expect, the driving forces behind Rich Internet Applications are the big guns in the technology and Web industry; namely Adobe, Google and Microsoft. Each company has produced their own RIA platforms:
Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR)
AIR is a cross-operating system runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA‘s.
Applications can be built using the following technologies:
- Flash / Flex / ActionScript
- Combination of these technologies
- PDF can be leveraged with any application
Adobe Integrated Runtime can be found at http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/air/
Google Gears is an open source browser extension that lets developers create web applications that can run offline.
Google Gears consists of three modules that address the core challenges in making web applications work offline.
- Database Store data locally in a fully-searchable relational database
- WorkerPool Make your web applications more responsive by performing resource-intensive operations asynchronously
Google Gears can be found at http://gears.google.com
Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web. Silverlight offers a flexible programming model that supports AJAX, VB, C#, Python, and Ruby, and integrates with existing Web applications. Silverlight supports fast, cost-effective delivery of high-quality video to all major browsers running on the Mac OS or Windows.
Microsoft Silverlight can be found at http://silverlight.net