I caught a post over at JackBe that I think illustrates some of the misunderstandings about Rich Internet Applications and how they fit into the world. I realize that I'm not going to be the one to define RIAs, or make the distinction between whether or not Ajax is included, but as we see the solutions from technologies like Windows Presentation Foundation, Adobe's Flex, OpenLaszlo, and even Java, it will become clear that there is a big difference between RIAs and Ajax.
The author distinguishes between Rich Internet Applications and Rich Enterprise Applications, and compares the difference to that of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. One of the traits of Enterprise 2.0 he says is the need for a more robust security model, which I believe. My problem is in this quote:
RIA has brought enhanced desktop-like look and feel to web applications. It looks, feels, and from a user perspective, performs a lot better than some we-based apps of only a few years ago. Let me clarify that this richness is all done in the browser which is perfectly fine for all of the Real estate mashups popping up everyday.
True RIAs should not be tethered to the browser. The browser as it stands today simply doesn't work for an application model. I realize that people have built some great Ajax applications, but being stuck inside the browser limits what you can do from both a security and experience standpoint.
That's why I don't believe there is a need to distinguish between RIAs and REAs - they are the same thing. RIAs provide you the security you need, and give you the desktop like look and feel outside of the browser. That, to me, is one of the reasons RIAs are so powerful. I am hoping to talk more about this next week, but the enterprise seems much more likely to be early adopters of RIAs than the web companies who have invested heavily in Ajax. Those enterprise systems lack a good interface, and RIAs can very easily provide that. RIAs, when defined as I define them, are a perfect fit for the enterprise.