2007 is going to be a huge year for Rich Internet Applications. Rich media is going to be in high demand and companies are going to see the economic benefits of building richer experiences than traditional web experiences allow. The explosion of video and multimedia on the web will continue to push the limits of browser based applications until people realize linking the web and the desktop can give them more control over data and experiences. RSS and Microformats will help developers abstract the important data from the web and give them the freedom to build RIAs that are just as useful as web applications but more robust and more in tune with how people use their computers.
With that backdrop I've written 10 predictions for Rich Internet Applications in the year 2007. I'm already cringing about revisiting these next year, but if year end predictions aren't for looking back at how silly you were, then what are they for? With that in mind, I give you my 10 predictions for RIAs in 2007.
1. Vista is going to raise the bar for experiences across the board. When Vista goes out to regular consumers in January it's going to set a new level for what they expect their applications to be. The subtleties of the UI and overall focus on a better experience is going to affect how those consumers see the web. When you think about the kind of applications that will be built for Vista using Windows Presentation Foundation, an even higher level if rich interactivity and media integration is going to be expected by Joe user.
2. Adobe's Apollo is going to be much better than expected. There is a lot of buzz about Adobe's Apollo project but by the end of 2007 Apollo will have changed the way people think about software from the install to the online/offline connectivity. Developers will flock to a platform that allows them to build desktop applications with web technologies and penetration of the runtime will be at 65% by the end of the year. This is going to be fed by big companies (like eBay) as well as small companies who look towards Apollo to allow them to bridge the web-desktop gap.
3. Microsoft is going to make inroads into the design market. Expression Studio and the way it works with Visual Studio is going to turn heads in the development shops that are looking to build Rich Internet Application solutions. Adobe will remain the dominant player in the space, but the Expression Studio tools will be taken up by more than just .NET developers who need to make pretty applications (see 1). We'll see this tool in design shops.
4. The Designer/Developer workflow will get some mainstream press. Along with number three, I think the designer/developer workflow is going to become much more important in the overall conversation. Guys like Dave Sheaand Shaun Inman are going to be talking about applying design techniques to these new Rich Internet Applications and developers are going to be looking for easy ways to integrate design into their workflows.
5. Apple is going to make a play in Rich Internet Applications I mentioned this in a post earlier this month and it ended up that a lot of my facts were incorrect. But that aside, I think Apple is going to make an RIA splash. QuickTime is too widespread and in many ways too powerful for them not to think about giving developers access to it as a platform.
6. Competition for technology in the online video space will heat up. Flash has been the runaway winner in the online video space primarily because it's everywhere and it's easy to use. WPF/E is going to start giving Flash video a run for its money as a delivery mechanism for video on the web. By the end of the year Flash video will continue to be considered the standard, but WPF/E will have taken some marketshare and a lot of video sites will offer a Flash version and a WPF/E version of their videos.
7. Flex becomes the primary technology for building Rich Internet Applications. A pretty bold statement, but Flex has a huge head start and new applications are showing up every day. A large number of developers are going to look at breaking free from the browser and leveraging the Flash platform to do it. Flex is going to give them a development model they can grasp very quickly and build powerful applications for both the web and the desktop via Apollo. Flex also lends itself very well to building widgets, which will draw more developers into the fold.
10. OpenLaszlo is going to be a beacon for open source developers looking to build Rich Internet Applications. OpenLaszlo is in a unique position because they are planning to support a wide variety of RIA options with little or no changes to the underlying code. In a sense this makes them a mile wide but an inch deep. However they continue to garner buzz from the open source world and with the release of "Legals" in 2007, Ajax developers who want to dabble in richer forms of application development will begin by building OpenLaszlo applications and deploying them on multiple runtimes.