Apple finally goes RIA

I shouldn't say finally. The writing has been on the wall forever but most people couldn't figure out what the writing said.

I shouldn't say finally. The writing has been on the wall forever but most people couldn't figure out what the writing said. It turns out it has a name, SproutCore, an open source Javascript framework that has been getting some buzz because it may be powering the Mobile Me suite of applications from Apple soon.

There's a big, long, sometimes hard to read post on RoughlyDrafted that dives into a bunch of Apple vs Adobe vs Microsoft vs Sun vs Google scenarios with the central topic being that SproutCore is Apple's Flash killer. So what is SproutCore?

There are a couple of demos that actually ran pretty terribly on my Mac in Camino. Most of the news and following blog posts seem to come from a single session at WWDC that talked about SproutCore. The RoughlyDrafted post seems to imply that Apple will be supporting the SproutCore project. Could we see something like we have with WebKit? The SproutCore blog doesn't mention anything like that which I can see. But the creator, Charles Jolley, was hired as part of the .Mac team so I guess that means that Apple has acquired the framework.

So Apple now has a bunch of pieces to put together a real HTML/Javascript RIA push. They have the platform: Safari (Mac/iPhone/Windows), the framework: SproutCore, the multimedia: Quicktime/H.264, and the tools. If you want to start delivering RIAs and you want people to start building RIAs on your platform, that's pretty much what you need. But I'm not fully convinced this is a platform play for Apple. They don't seem to want massive developer adoption (note the miniscule 1.5% acceptance rate for the iPhone dev program) but rather a way to deploy online applications that can mesh with the Apple brand.

I think we're at a very interesting time in RIA. I've long considered Javascript and HTML a part of the RIA stack, but the places we're seeing Javascript and HTML have become more prevalent. I think we're reaching a point where the issue isn't so much "who wins the RIA war" as "who can deliver the best stuff on their platform". RIA is a big, big deal. It's arguably the future of application deployment. Flash used to be the only technology that could really meet user expectation as we moved from the desktop to the browser. But it's scary for companies like Microsoft, Google, or Apple to be tied to a technology like Flash that they don't own. So everyone saw the end goal - RIAs - and took different paths. There's still some wrestling for developer mindshare but we're quickly moving into a world of "what can I build" which I think is a great state to be in for RIA enthusiasts everywhere.

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