Why do tech journalists get Rich Internet Applications so wrong?

Summary:A lot of people are talking about Rich Internet Applications. At first people weren't really sold on creating really great experiences in the browser.

A lot of people are talking about Rich Internet Applications. At first people weren't really sold on creating really great experiences in the browser. Then Ajax came along and gave us a taste of how much better the web could actually be. Once people figured out that Ajax wasn't quite the answer to all of their problems, people took a harder look at RIAs. As a result, more companies started seeing how RIAs could help them. Microsoft started talking about how great experience was and even Sun took moves to reinvigorate Java with JavaFX (though initially JavaFX is targeted at devices). But with all the buzz, people still seem to have a very difficult time getting the RIA facts straight. Most recently it's a post on the Streaming Media blog:

It's the same with Apollo. I keep reading news articles, like the one on Yahoo! news today, where people say things like, "Adobe's new media player downloads video for offline viewing." What new media player? Apollo, now named Adobe AIR, is NOT available for download, only the SDK is. Yet many in the press, investment community and the industry keep asking me or telling me that the new Apollo player is working really well or that it is changing the way content creators develop for offline viewing. Maybe it will, but considering the Adobe Media Player is not even available for at least another few months one can't say that those things are happening today.

The main point of the post is that Adobe gets a free ride when it comes to marketing. Part of that is true. It's been both interesting and terrifying to watch the marketing around AIR. We've been talking about the product so long and drummed up so much excitement that it makes it tough to remind people that this is still a beta product. Heck, we invested a ton of marketing mindshare in the codename and now have to undo some of that. But while praising our ability to get the word out, he shows that there is still a ton of confusion in the RIA world. First of all, Adobe AIR IS available, you can download the runtime right here. But AMP (Adobe Media Player), which runs on AIR, is not available yet. He seems to be interchanging AIR and AMP which isn't accurate.

But the problem isn't just Adobe's. Think of how often you see Silverlight and Adobe AIR in the same sentence as competitors (that was part of the reason for this comparison post, but it should be updated now with Silverlight 1.1 in the mix). Microsoft was also able to pull off some great marketing when they unveiled Silverlight at MIX. The 1.1 alpha got a ton of hype even though it's a ways off. Part of that was the fact that the CLR is actually running on the Mac, which is awesome, and they had some great demos. In some ways it's very similar to AIR in that they announced early, used the buzz and are continuing to chug along. Then JavaFX was announced without any real code at all and still got a ton of marketing traction the week of JavaOne.

I think the fact that all of these technologies are getting so much attention is proof that people are really interested in Rich Internet Applications. There are a ton of new technologies coming to market and most of them are bringing about entirely new solutions. AIR is a difficult thing to grasp because running web apps on the desktop hasn't been done before. No one knows what the CLR on the Mac is going to mean because no one thought it would actually happen. As a result the tech world is still getting a handle on what all of this means. In the short term that is going to mean a lot of mistaken reporting but in the long term the seeds that are being planted today are going to grow into a lot of attention and mindshare for RIA technologies.

John Dowdell had some thoughts on this though I'm not sure I agree with him on the video promotion though. It seems hard to believe that when video was first introduced into the player that people envisioned a world where YouTube sold for 1.6 billion dollars. But I could be wrong.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Microsoft, Software Development

About

Ryan Stewart holds an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Rich Internet Application developer and industry analyst. After graduating from Penn, he spent two years developing applications for the Wharton School and pushing the idea of the web as a platform for learning. Ryan now lives in Seattle with his wife... Full Bio

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