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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
Real IoT production deployments running at scale are collecting sensor data from hundreds / thousands / millions of devices. The goal is to take business-critical actions on the real-time data and find insights from stored datasets. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Walicki, Watson IoT Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud, will provide a fast-paced developer journey that follows the IoT sensor data from generation, to edge gateway, to edge analytics, to encryption, to the IBM Bluemix cloud, to Wa...
What is the best strategy for selecting the right offshore company for your business? In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, will discuss the things to look for - positive and negative - in evaluating your options. He will also discuss how to maximize productivity with your offshore developers. Before you start your search, clearly understand your business needs and how that impacts software choices.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
There is huge complexity in implementing a successful digital business that requires efficient on-premise and cloud back-end infrastructure, IT and Internet of Things (IoT) data, analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Applications. In the data center alone, there are physical and virtual infrastructures, multiple operating systems, multiple applications and new and emerging business and technological paradigms such as cloud computing and XaaS. And then there are pe...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, will discuss how data centers of the future will be managed, how th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp em...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Suzuki Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Suzuki Inc. is a semiconductor-related business, including sales of consuming parts, parts repair, and maintenance for semiconductor manufacturing machines, etc. It is also a health care business providing experimental research for...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...