Ryan Stewart makes the case for Google to develop more RIAs (rich internet apps). He says:
"If Google wants to deliver applications to main stream users, they need to adopt a Rich Internet Application strategy. They need to use their talent and their web knowledge to build applications that bridge the gap between web and desktop."
Over time Google probably will do this, but as long as the web browser is the lowest common denominator Web platform - then Google will develop mainly for the browser. Here are my other reasons why I don't see an RIA Google any time soon:
* The browser itself is a 'desktop app' - most people forget this. The browser is the ultimate desktop app in many ways, used as a platform by giant companies like Google, eBay, Amazon and Yahoo.
* There are viable - and popular - open source versions of the browser. Mozilla's Firefox and Flock being two examples. Adobe's RIA platforms are not open source, nor are Microsoft's.
* Browsers mostly support open Web standards - belatedly, in some cases! Web standards are crucial for ensuring the Web remains a largely democratic development platform.
RIA Web Office?
In another post, Ryan suggests a Flex-based Web Office:
"This is where Adobe has the perfect strategy, and I can’t believe Richard doesn’t give it more attention. If you’re building an office suite for the future, Adobe technologies have you covered for both today and tomorrow. You can build your suite in Flex 2 (but it needs much better Rich Text Support…*ahem*) and deliver it as an Apollo application. When your users want the web, they have it, when they need to move to the desktop, they have it."
According to the Apollo Labs link in Ryan's post, Apollo is "a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s." The gist of Adobe's Apollo then is to enable web developers to create apps that reside outside the browser.
It's an admirable goal, but I always have one niggling thought about that - doesn't it make you reliant on a single company's technologies (Adobe in this case)? You could of course say the same thing about Microsoft's WPF.
Summary - Google will stick with the browser
So while I have a The browser is the only mass-scale open Web platform great deal of respect for Ryan's RIA visions and Adobe's web/desktop hybrid platforms, for me these products simply aren't open or generic enough to be mainstream Web platforms. For that reason Google will stay inside the browser for a while yet, because it's the only mass-scale open Web platform around right now.