Richard MacManus, one of my fellow bloggers here on ZDNet has some RIA eye candy in the form of screenshots of the New York Times Reader that is being built on Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation. He was able to take the reader out for a spin at the Microsoft TechEd conference in Auckland (those Kiwis have all the fun).
I've been watching the New York Times reader, because I think it's a very interesting application. Technically, it isn't all that sophisticated. In fact, I think it will end up being one of the more plain WPF applications that we see. Conceptually however, it shows off exactly what a Rich Internet Application should be.
Online/Offline. With the reader, you can both view the content while you're connect, AND take it with you. In the world of constant wi-fi that is Silicon Valley, this may not seem important, but for air travelers and others in more remote areas, this makes brining an electronic copy of the times with you very easy.
Experience. There seem to be few things more simplistically elegant than reading a newspaper. It's something we've all done, it can be associated with our commute, lazy Sunday mornings, or even our parents - it evokes emotion. The Times reader provides that kind of simple elegance, and seems to be a good technological jump for the way we read newspapers.
Branding. The brand of The New York Times is a pretty important one, and the reader enables them to make the application look exactly how they want it. They don't have to worry about how it is going to look on other browsers, or hack around ancient browser DOMs to enable their brand - it just appears. From both a marketing and development perspective, this is the holy grail.
Cross Platform. Okay, well maybe it doesn't cover all the important parts. [Update] Before I get skewered, I found this quote on the New York Times' First Look blog:
One of the most frequently asked questions we have received since April is, “Will Times Reader be available on the Mac?” The answer is yes. Microsoft has an initiative called Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere which will port the technology to the Mac, Linux and mobile devices. We intend to build a version of Times Reader to run on those platforms when they become available.
This is such a fantastic example of truly old media adopting the newest of the new. I think Microsoft was right on in getting the NYT to agree to helping out with the reader. As I mentioned above, this is a very simple application, but you really can't get much simpler than reading the newspaper. This is going to be a great RIA.