With the alpha release of Apollo, all the pieces are on the table and developers can start to experiment with the platforms from Adobe and Microsoft, arguably the two biggest players in the RIA-technology space (as opposed to RIA-solutions themselves). And now that we've seen what everyone has to offer, things are going to get interesting.
There were two posts this weekend that addressed this, and while they're both from Adobe, I think they're worth highlighting, and I think even most Microsoft folks would acknowledge the validity. The first was by Ted Patrick, who talked about rich versus reach. The one thing that struck me about Ted's post was how he portrayed Ajax. A lot of people talk about Ajax being the furthest reaching rich platform, but that isn't really the case. HTML has a very wide reach, but Ajax, when you take in the differences in how browsers treat it, has a lower reach. My main quibble with Ted is his rich numbers. I think WPF is a lot richer than Flash, though you can create some rich experiences with Flash. I also think giving WPF/E one point of richness more than regular HTML is ridiculous. Ted works for Adobe, so keep that in mind as you read, but it's still worth checking out.
The last one is from Mike Chambers, and it does a good job of laying the landscape. He was asked at Apollo Camp if WPF and Apollo compete, and his answer is no, they don't. In a lot of ways he's correct, and that's one of the great things about Apollo. It enables a new kind of software; one that uses web technologies but runs on the desktop. That's very different from the amazing desktop experiences that you can create with WPF and .NET, but both have their place. The desktop has been left for dead in the Web 2.0 world, but it's got a lot of life left and Apollo gives developers with a web skillset the chance to deploy applications on it. I think WPF and Apollo actually compliment each other in many ways because they take on desktop software from very different angles. That's going to be great for developers of all stripes.
The desktop is seeing a resurgence. Between WPF and Apollo all kinds of developers are going to be able to build a diverse set of applications for a platform people like to think of as dead. But at the same time both of these companies are working on their web offerings. "WPF/E" and Flash both take different approaches to rich web applications. We haven't seen fully what WPF/E is going to be about, but hopefully Mix will clear up some of those issues. It's an exciting time to be developing applications regardless of what your rich/reach requirements are. Developers have a lot of choices out there.