Welcome!

Silverlight Authors: Automic Blog, Michael Kopp, Jyoti Bansal, Kaazing Blog, Steven Mandel

Related Topics: Adobe Flex, Machine Learning , Silverlight

Adobe Flex: Blog Post

The Dissolution of the Rich Internet Application (RIA) Market

At some point, won't all Internet applications be rich, and all desktop applications become Internet-enabled?

Traditional market research focuses on the size and growth of well-defined market segments. As vendors enter and compete in those markets, customers participate by purchasing products and services within those segments, and market research seeks to establish the patterns of such transactions in order to predict the future trends for such markets. In the Information Technology (IT) space, however, many markets are transitory in that as new technologies and behavior patterns emerge, what might formerly have been separate markets vying for customer dollars merge into a single market in order to address evolving customer needs. Over time these separately identifiable markets lose their distinct identity, as products and customer demand both mature. The Rich Internet Application (RIA) market is certainly no exception to this pattern of market behavior.

As we originally covered in a ZapFlash back in 2004, a Rich Internet Application combines elements of rich user interactivity and client-side logic once solely the domain of desktop and client/server applications with the distributed computing power of the Internet. In essence, an RIA is a hybrid client-server/web application model that attempts to bridge the gap between those two computing approaches and address the limitations of each.

However, in the subsequent half-decade since that first report came out, it is becoming clear that the concept of RIA spans the gamut of applications from those that barely have any richness to them at all in one extreme, to considerably rich and interactive applications that made use of a wide range of RIA capabilities in the other. From this perspective, it's evident that an application can have all of the characteristics of an RIA application, none of the characteristics, or somewhere in between resulting in a spectrum of richly enabled applications.

From a SOA perspective, RIAs are simply the user interface to composite Services. This is why we care about the RIA market: to the extent that organizations can abstract the presentation of their Services from the composition of those Services, and in turn from the implementation of the Services, we can introduce greater flexibility into the sort of applications we deliver to the business without sacrificing functionality. However, more importantly, as an increasing range of applications add richness to their capabilities, what it means to be an RIA is increasingly becoming blurry. At some point, won't all Internet applications be rich, and all desktop applications become Internet-enabled? If so, then does it even matter if a separately discernable RIA market exists?

RIAs: The Application Boundary Disappears
Macromedia, now part of Adobe Systems, introduced the RIA term in the 1990s to delineate products that addressed the limitations at the time in the richness of application interfaces, media and content available on the Internet. Today, RIAs comprise mostly Web-based applications that have some of the characteristics of desktop applications, where the RIA environment typically delivers application capabilities via Web browser plug-ins, native browser capabilities, or vendor-specific virtual machines. In the past few years, new RIA solutions have also emerged to provide desktop capabilities that leverage the same technologies available in Web applications.

In our recent Evolution of the Rich Internet Application Market report, we identified a classification system by which organizations can classify the richness of its applications according to three axes:

  • Richness of Internet Capabilities - The extent to which the application or technology leverages the full functionality of the Internet .
  • Richness of User Interface - The extent to which the application or technology delivers interactive, deep, and broad user interface (UI) capabilities.
  • Richness of Client Capabilities - The extent to which the application offers client computing capabilities that utilize the local machine power, such as storing information locally, using local memory and disk storage, and shifting processing power to the desktop from the server.

The following is a visualization of the three axes and the scope of potential RIA solutions:

 

The RIA Classification Triangle

As can be gleaned from the above picture, there's no sharp delineation between what can clearly be identified as an RIA and what cannot. As new technologies and patterns emerge that increase the capability of the web application, browser, and desktop, that delineation will continue to blur.

When Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005, it also acquired a legacy that included Shockwave, Flash, and Flex. This legacy of RIA experience has culminated in the recent release of the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), an RIA environment that facilitates the construction browser-independent Web applications that have many of the features of desktop applications, including offline capabilities -- in other words, RIAs. The ubiquity of Adobe's Flash plug-in has helped to make the vendor a dominant player in the industry, even though it does not have its own browsers, operating systems, or general-purpose application development environments.

However, while Adobe is currently the biggest and most experienced RIA vendor selling commercial RIA licenses, it faces serious challenges on multiple fronts, most notably from Microsoft. Microsoft's dominance in desktop and Internet application development, as well as its commanding market share of Web browsers and desktop operating systems means that it should be taken seriously as a threat to Adobe's commanding share of the market with the introduction of the company's Silverlight offering. Also at the end of 2008, Sun released JavaFX, its long-awaited entrant in the RIA race. The question still remains, however, how the battle for the RIA space will be fought before the time it's absorbed into other markets.

In the past few years, an approach to RIA capabilities emerged that utilized native browser technology, most notably JavaScript, DHTML, and XML. These disparate approaches, collectively known as Ajax, have matured considerably since 2006 as browsers' standards compliance and JavaScript support has improved, diminishing the need for proprietary plug-ins to fill RIA capabilities. Many of these Ajax-based RIA approaches are open source offerings and a few are commercial offerings from niche vendors.

The ZapThink Take
As the line between browser-based and desktop-based applications blurs, and as approaches for abstracting functionality and information from user interfaces develop, other markets will eventually merge with the currently separately identifiable RIA market. Furthermore, as the Internet continues to penetrate every aspect of our lives, both business and personal, the distinction between "Internet application" and "application" will disappear, rich or not.

Earlier this year, ZapThink surveyed a number of enterprise end-users to obtain more information about the context for RIAs in their environments. The single consistent theme across these interviews is the enterprise context for RIAs. Because these practitioners are architects, their scope of interest covers the entire enterprise application environment, rather than usage of RIA for one specific application. Within this context, RIAs are the user interface component of broader enterprise applications.

For those architects who are implementing Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), the RIA story focuses on the Service consumer, which is the software that consumes Services in the SOA context. Such consumers don't necessarily have user interfaces, but when they do, RIAs typically meet the needs of the business more than traditional browser interfaces or desktop applications. As a result, there is increasing demand for RIA capabilities in the enterprise, although people don't identify the applications that leverage such capabilities as RIAs. Rather, RIA capabilities are features of those applications. This further serves to make indistinct a separately identifiable RIA market. However, this dissolution of the RIA market as a separate market is still several years away, as all indications are that the RIA environments market in particular will continue to experience healthy growth for years to come. Find out more about RIAs at one of ZapThink's SOA training and certification courses.

More Stories By Ron Schmelzer

Ron Schmelzer is founder and senior analyst of ZapThink. A well-known expert in the field of XML and XML-based standards and initiatives, Ron has been featured in and written for periodicals and has spoken on the subject of XML at numerous industry conferences.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
When growing capacity and power in the data center, the architectural trade-offs between server scale-up vs. scale-out continue to be debated. Both approaches are valid: scale-out adds multiple, smaller servers running in a distributed computing model, while scale-up adds fewer, more powerful servers that are capable of running larger workloads. It’s worth noting that there are additional, unique advantages that scale-up architectures offer. One big advantage is large memory and compute capacity...
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.