Why do tech journalists get Rich Internet Applications so wrong?

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

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  • Lack of representation

    There is not a lot of quality RIA publishings out on the net, but it is a space that is going to grow as consolidation for enterprise communication is going become more important. As IM, video conferencing becomes more widely used in the work place, a rich application hosting email, VoIP, video, IM, etc. is going to be an essential desktop app for SMBs and the casual home businessman.

    Enjoying your blog.
  • available versus beta

    Its probably worth noting that AIR is only available as a public beta from labs.adobe.com, not 'available' in the sense that is recommended for use in a typical production environment.

    I've been hearing a lot of confusion between Apollo/AIR and AMP myself and certainly agree with your post.
  • But I Find Even Adobe Is Confused

    The other day, an Adobe employee asked me if I had downloaded the new "AIR
    Player", so while I agree that the terms AIR and AMP seems to be used in a
    confusing and incorrect manner, by using it that way on my blog I am pointing out
    that even someone from Adobe refers to it incorrectly. I don't see why all of the
    platform companies have to make things so complex, constantly change the name
    of the product/platform and don't instead choose to make this a lot easier to
    market and explain what the value is. Even the term "RIA", that's not a term I hear
    anyone else in the industry use unless they are very specifically tied into that
    segment of the market. Ask any content creator, who is not a developer, and they
    won't know what RIA stands for.

    As to the point about Silverlight and AIR both being announced early, I don't think
    that is a fair comparison. When Silverlight was announced, there were a beta plugin
    anyone could download along with other software. When Apollo was announced,
    there was and is no player that can be downloaded, even in beta and no SDK or
    tools at the time. And then months after the announcement, Adobe changed the
    name of the platform, but Silverlight is still known as Silverlight.
    • RE: But I Find Even Adobe Is Confused

      Yeah, we need to work on getting our own people up to speed on everything. But I disagree with the second paragraph. Remember we were all talking about "WFP/E" long before Silverlight was announced. I think in some ways that's analogous to Apollo/AIR. A lot of buzz around the prerelease with not much in the way of actual code to play with then a big PR ramp up for the name announcement and then software that you could actually download.
  • Brand Confusion...

    I understand Adobe's looking to consolidate its portfolio of Products to interlace the various stories around why they exist. I must admit though, there is a lot of brand confusion around at the moment and the key is to work back from early PR boosting releases and instead acknowledge them as being early builds only.

    AIR has had a lot of build up, and I had warned a lot about it and how it can backfire, well.. now you can get a glimpse on why.

    Silverlight is in the final throws of Beta, it's got an ETA on its release "Summer 07" so one can forgive the "PR" hype as we are close to shipping.

    The fact is, the reason folks associate Silverlight with AIR is simply put that its Microsoft looking to branch out onto cross-platform(s) - increase its reach on different client-surfaces. As for competition, hey it sells papers and gets readers hitting sites like this? so is it a bad thing that they get it wrong? It's also used to balance the story, get the ying/yang approach to identifying with the Technology.

    An example would be this post, you've used Silverlight to underpin the notion that Brand confusion exists and it's not isolated to Adobe..

    I look at it as teasers for the back of a movie, you buy into the hype because you WANT to.. watch the movie and then formulate your own opinion ;)