Kendall Whitehouse has a really fantastic interview up with Scott Guthrie, the man helping to lead Microsoft's charge into rich Internet applications. The interview covers a ton of ground including Microsoft's plan to make money off of Silverlight and Scott Guthrie's thoughts on AIR. Kendall has been following the space for quite a while so he has a pretty good sense of what to ask and how to get good answers. Some of the highlights for anyone interested in RIAs.
One question that I thought was very interesting was about the demo at MIX. Scott makes a case that all the keynote demos demonstrated things that couldn't be done in Flash:
In the [MIX08] keynote we were careful in showing specific examples that you can't build with Flash. You couldn't do the Olympics [Silverlight-based website] with Flash. It doesn't have the media capabilities; it doesn't have the adaptive streaming capabilities to host that type of experience.
The kind of performance that was shown with the AOL mail reader as you...scrolled up and down -- the Flash Player would not be able to handle that many million emails inside an Inbox without choking. If you look at the Hard Rock example of zooming in and out with the Deep Zoom technology -- you can't do that with Flash. If you look at the Aston Martin experience, where they were showing both the Deep Zoom, where you can see the stitches in the [car's leather interior], but also the 3D rotation of the car inside the browser -- Flash today doesn't have the graphics power to do that on typical hardware.
I have a quibble with a couple of those but I think it's good that Microsoft is trying to differentiate between Flash in a lot of areas. I think that helps push both companies. Another good question was about how committed Microsoft is to cross-platform and I really liked Scott's answer. He said they didn't want to add features to Windows that couldn't be added on Mac:
For example, in a previous alpha last year we did not have East Asian font support, we didn't have a text box, and people would say "How hard is it to add that?" Well, it turns out that if you want to add it in a cross platform, a cross browser way, it's actually really hard. We now have those in the Silverlight beta that we shipped this week. We could have added it in the alpha to work on Windows first and then caught up with the Mac. But we explicitly said no, we are going to wait until we have the features everywhere because we want to make sure that there's no ambiguity about the importance of having a consistent API and a consistent set of features that run in all places.
One thing I think is odd is Scott's response to AIR and specifically the security concerns. I know we've spent a lot of time at Adobe focusing on the security model but the important key is that AIR applications are desktop applications, just like .NET. Scott says that "People want to know that if they type in a URL and visit a website, that it can't access their local documents, it can't steal content from their file system." but that can't happen with AIR. You have to go through an install process just like any other desktop application so you have to ultimately trust the source you're installing from, just like .NET. It's going to be very interesting to see how this evolves.