Welcome!

Adobe Flex Authors: Matthew Lobas, PR.com Newswire, Shelly Palmer, Kevin Benedict

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.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
In an age of borderless networks, security for the cloud and security for the corporate network can no longer be separated. Security teams are now presented with the challenge of monitoring and controlling access to these cloud environments, at the same time that developers quickly spin up new cloud instances and executives push forwards new initiatives. The vulnerabilities created by migration to the cloud, such as misconfigurations and compromised credentials, require that security teams t...
AI and machine learning disruption for Enterprises started happening in the areas such as IT operations management (ITOPs) and Cloud management and SaaS apps. In 2019 CIOs will see disruptive solutions for Cloud & Devops, AI/ML driven IT Ops and Cloud Ops. Customers want AI-driven multi-cloud operations for monitoring, detection, prevention of disruptions. Disruptions cause revenue loss, unhappy users, impacts brand reputation etc.
Today's workforce is trading their cubicles and corporate desktops in favor of an any-location, any-device work style. And as digital natives make up more and more of the modern workforce, the appetite for user-friendly, cloud-based services grows. The center of work is shifting to the user and to the cloud. But managing a proliferation of SaaS, web, and mobile apps running on any number of clouds and devices is unwieldy and increases security risks. Steve Wilson, Citrix Vice President of Cloud,...
As the fourth industrial revolution continues to march forward, key questions remain related to the protection of software, cloud, AI, and automation intellectual property. Recent developments in Supreme Court and lower court case law will be reviewed to explain the intricacies of what inventions are eligible for patent protection, how copyright law may be used to protect application programming interfaces (APIs), and the extent to which trademark and trade secret law may have expanded relev...
Cloud computing, big data and AI provide a new impetus and urgency to traditional enterprises to become digitally transformed businesses as they face disruption from new players who leverage technology to foster new business models. Traditionally, enterprises focused on digitizing processes and transactions. The incumbents can also be disruptors by leveraging AI for data-driven insights and innovate at scale on Cloud platform. They need to uncover the power of ERP/SAP using Cloud, AI and Big dat...
When Enterprises started adopting Hadoop-based Big Data environments over the last ten years, they were mainly on-premise deployments. Organizations would spin up and manage large Hadoop clusters, where they would funnel exabytes or petabytes of unstructured data.However, over the last few years the economics of maintaining this enormous infrastructure compared with the elastic scalability of viable cloud options has changed this equation. The growth of cloud storage, cloud-managed big data e...
Your applications have evolved, your computing needs are changing, and your servers have become more and more dense. But your data center hasn't changed so you can't get the benefits of cheaper, better, smaller, faster... until now. Colovore is Silicon Valley's premier provider of high-density colocation solutions that are a perfect fit for companies operating modern, high-performance hardware. No other Bay Area colo provider can match our density, operating efficiency, and ease of scalability.
The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get tailored market studies; and more.
The graph represents a network of 1,329 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained "#DevOps", or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets, taken from a data set limited to a maximum of 18,000 tweets. The network was obtained from Twitter on Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 23:50 UTC. The tweets in the network were tweeted over the 7-hour, 6-minute period from Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 16:29 UTC to Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 23:36 UTC. Additional tweets that were mentioned in this...
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. This time is (mostly) different. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Pattern recognition can equal or exceed the ability of human experts in some domains. It's devel...