Y Combinator posted a list of a bunch of different startup ideas they'd like to see and fund. It's a sizable list with 30 different thoughts waiting for enthusiastic entrepreneurs to take a shot. But what struck me most about the list was how RIA-heavy it is. I as much as anyone feel that RIAs are the wave of the future though it's difficult sometimes to articulate how, why, and when. But this list provides good indication that even though people may not realize it, they want more RIAs:
2. Simplified browsing.
Sure you could create a simplified browser in a native language, but I see this as a great use case for Adobe AIR. You get the web technologies and you can easily customize it so it feels very web-centric. Plus you can provide it on Mac/Windows/Linux so wherever they go, they'll have the same, simple UI. For that target demographic that's a good thing.
5. Enterprise software 2.0.
This one screams for RIAs. In fact the entire enterprise screams for an RIA makeover, but the enterprise moves slowly. If you want to target the enterprise why not make your application look fantastic and stand out. Since you're starting from scratch and aren't really beholden to legacy systems like the big enterprise players you can create rock-solid code and then put an intuitive, meaningful user interface on it. That will turn heads.
6. More variants of CRM.
Why not add a little rich media to the CRM world? Incorporate some video chat, maybe some real time messaging, add the ability to synchronize data online and offline and provide a mobile interface for use on the go. CRMs could be greatly overhauled with RIAs.
9. Photo/video sharing services.
This one is a no brainer, but I think we can definitely do better than the sites we have now. Add some more interaction. Add collaboration, real time communication, a better user interface. People want to share and you can make that experience extremely engaging with RIAs. Make them feel like they're sharing in front of a room full of people instead of a website with avatars.
Another place with rich media or collaboration could make a huge difference.
11. Web Office apps.
A gigantic market with high expectations. People have been using office apps on the desktop forever so in order to get them to switch you have to provide great functionality as well as a user interface that feels like a desktop app. RIAs provide that capability.
12. Fix advertising.
Don't even get me started. I hate annoying Flash ads as much as anyone. I think the interactivity of RIAs could be used in such a more responsible and valuable way - we just have to think of it.
13. Online learning.
Another case where RIAs can help jump over the walls so to speak. Real time messaging, collaboration, and rich media are absolutely necessary to create something worthwhile in the online learning space. You have to be able to create emotional connections which is tough to do over the web. In all honesty I'm not sure the technologies exist to make this a reality yet, but they're getting there.
16. A form of search that depends on design.
Design is still very, very important. I'd love to see one outcome of the innovation around designer developer workflow to be a search engine that provides good, fast results, and has a stellar design.
18. The WebOS.
The cloud combined with a good user interface. If you're replicating an OS you have to have power under the hood and make it easy and engaging for people to use. How are you going to create Vista or Mac OSX in the browser? Lots of useful transitions, usability tweaks, and rich media.
22. A web-based Excel/database hybrid.
Another design problem. Code a great database and then put a friendly, usable interface on it. Make it fun to use, make it intuitive, and show off your design chops. Another thing that would be helped by an overhaul of the designer-developer workflow.
26. Better video chat.
How do you make video chat feel more real? Good UI, lots of rich media are a good start.
29. Easy site builders for specific markets.
Another great place for RIAs. Site builders are important and it's always good to lower the barrier to entry of the web for everyone. But they have to stand out. You've got to let people get creative and put those creative designs to screen. An RIA that lets people build those kind of RIA-like experiences would be a huge help.