Making the Rich Internet Application a Reality - Kevin Lynch

Making the Rich Internet Application a Reality - Kevin Lynch

Summary: Kevin Lynch, the Chief Software Architect at Adobe has had a big impact on the evolution of Flash and the evolution of Rich Internet Applications in general. In the coming years, Kevin will have the opportunity to work with the people at Adobe and the developer community to bring more RIAs to life.


It's difficult to talk about the evolution of the web without mentioning Flash. Over the years Flash has run the gambit from annoying animation, to revolutionary video technology and application framework. Who would have thought during the dark days of the skip intro button that Flash Who Shapes IT?would someday serve up 19% of the web's video surpassing both QuickTime and RealPlayer. The growth of web applications has given Flash a chance to win back some of its detractors, but the road to transition Flash from a novelty animation program to a game-changing Rich Internet Application framework will be extremely difficult. Leading it along that road is Kevin Lynch.

kevin2002.jpgAs is evident on his background page, Kevin has been involved with software for a long time. In the past couple of years his talks at conferences have revolved around a new way to deliver software. Before Web 2.0 exploded, Kevin was coining the term "Rich Internet Application". Before Ajax and Ruby on Rails became trendier than a New York nightclub, Kevin was talking about using Flash to write interactive web applications. But Flash has always had a credibility problem. It's been cited as a usability nightmare and an ugly add-on for perfectly good web browsers. Going forward it will be Kevin's job to make people see his vision and the benefits of developing in Flash.

When Adobe and Macromedia merged late in 2005, Adobe made Kevin the Chief Software Architect in charge of Adobe's Platform Business Unit. According to Adobe this unit focuses "on advancing Adobe's PDF and Flash-based technology platforms as standards for creating, managing, and delivering compelling, actionable applications and content to any desktop or device." So as the man in charge of the Platform Business Unit, Kevin is overseeing Flash and PDF, the two most important technologies in Adobe's toolbox.

With those two technologies, Adobe has the ability to drastically change how the world uses software with Kevin leading the charge. PDF and Flash are two of the most downloaded programs on the internet, and between the two of them have close to 99% penetration among internet users. They also come with more than their fair share of opponents. And as the fiasco with Microsoft over PDF inclusion in Office 2007, there are pitfalls and challenges ahead. Microsoft is transitioning to the next generation of software development by leveraging Vista and WPF. Adobe must make the jump from designers to developers, and court companies like Google and Yahoo which are looming large over the web application landscape. Despite the challenges, the payoff could be significant: a chance to both solidify Adobe's revenue base as well as move into a lucrative developer market. Later this year Adobe is planning to release a beta version of its Apollo project.


Kevin has talked a lot about "The Universal Client" and Apollo is Adobe's strategic move in that direction. With it, developers will be able to program applications using Flash and JavaScript, which will tie in closely with the operating system and behave just like desktop applications now. Those applications will be cross platform and the only install required will be the Apollo runtime. Kevin's idea of bringing the Rich Internet Application to the desktop can finally have a real life solution. If Adobe can deliver, and developers take to the new solution, then Adobe will be in a position to totally disrupt software as we know it. But it won't be easy.

In the year ahead, the Platform Business Unit will help push Adobe in a new direction. Microsoft and Adobe are on a collision course. Adobe is aiming directly at Microsoft's core business and Microsoft is trying to hit Adobe in the design space. Meanwhile, Kevin will need to help Adobe persuade both regular developers and enterprises that Flash is a viable business solution. He has to do this without alienating the very creative, design-minded people who have made Flash what it is today. The board is nearly set, and the game is going to have a huge impact on the web.

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Topic: Software Development

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  • Beginning of a race...

    ... between Flash killing plug-ins and a growing panoply of Flash threats, it appears.

    I'm betting on the people who want to avoid aggravations. And expecting to see a lot of squares and rectangles with little red marks in the corners.

    That goal is important enough that even if a program using Flash appeared interesting, allowing it to run would add too many complications.

    When the article mentions the Flash market penetration, it should also have described the penetration of programs to stop Flash from working.
    Anton Philidor
    • Great Point

      I really like that point Anton, because I think you're right, and I think it shows one of the big challenges Flash has.

      Flash needs to show people it can provide a real value, and not just be annoying. I think we're starting to see that with Video, and I think we'll see it more with RIAs. The number of Flash blocking tools available is astounding, and Flash needs to overcome the perception that it's just used for ads and "fluff".

      If it does that, people will be willing to trust the technology a lot more.
  • I don't get it

    I?m unable to fathom how Adobe stands a chance against MS and WPF / WPF/E. Adobe would have to race to gain the vast experience, know-how, and other resources needed to match MS? programming resource. No software company on the planet has the skill or ability to do this. Absolutely none! I?m all for competition, but the best contender I see against WPF / WPF/E is Java, which is all but washed up ? at least on the desktop. The former CEO of Sun fell into the trap of obsessing over MS, and squandered the company?s opportunity to make Java credibly compete against .Net. Now Sun is licking its wounds just like so many companies that have gone up against MS.

    I believe if Adobe wants to do well, it should find ways to make money around the development of WPF / WPF/E. Maybe it could develop technologies for the inclusion of ads in WPF / WPF/E RIAs? Adobe however needs to smell the coffee. It doesn?t have a snowball?s chance of successfully going up against MS. It simply doesn?t.
    P. Douglas
    • I (obviously) just don't get it!

      Wait a sec, what are we saying? An existing company, with an existing product suite, and an existing track record in delivering graphic and presentation layer software won't be able to compete with a company who's so-far idea of user experience is typified by the Blue Screen of Death? Don't get me wrong - MS makes great products, that get things done, but, in the past, when they haven't been able to compete, they have just muscled out their competitors with actions that brought the DOJ down on them in the first place. They don't have that ace in their pocket any more.

      We're comparing a product by Adobe (and others, to be fair) with WPF, that doesn't even exist yet! As far as I am concerned, this is Adobe's game to lose.

      • Re: I (obviously) just don't get it

        Does Adobe have in its Apollo product, APIs anywhere as extensive as WPF and MS associated APIs? Not even Mac?s OS X has APIs that can match WPF. Also WPF is real: there is actual tested code behind it that is about 6 months away from shipping in Vista.
        P. Douglas
        • Re: I (obviously) just don't get it

          I don't know about Apollo, I'll be honest - and I'm skeptical. From what I've read, it would want to be amazingly brilliant to make it the corporate standard for my company. Flash based web sites, however, that's a different story.

          As for WPF - it's been shipping "in 6 months" for the last two years! And given MS track record - the first version will be ANYTHING but tested code.

          If it's good, I'll embrace it, and use it - I have no particular vendor affiliation. All I'm saying is, let's not declare a winner in the race before it's run, that's all.

    • Small Developers

      P, you should ping me via email (check out the bio page), I'd be interested to talk with you about this further. But I think it's a bit misleading when I say Adobe is going to "take on" Microsoft. But what Adobe IS going to do, which will be very disruptive, is empower small developers to write desktop-level applications. Is the small developer really a threat to Microsoft? This is up for debate, but for the first time, the technology may make that a much more real notion.