Undoubtedly you’ve heard the term “Rich Internet Application” (RIA) with increasing frequency lately. Sometimes you hear about it in context of Ajax, sometimes with Flash, and now even Microsoft gets talked about as having an RIA solution with “WPF/E”. The reality is that this is still a very unknown subset of the technology world and anyone who tries to define it (myself included) is fighting an uphill battle. However, there is one technology which has sparked quite a bit of interest across the board, Adobe’s soon-to-be-released Apollo platform.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Apollo is a cross-platform runtime that is still in pre alpha and allows developers to build applications for the desktop using web technologies including Flash, HTML and PDF. While Web 2.0 has prominently declared the desktop dead, its demise has been greatly exaggerated which is why I implore you to take a look at Apollo. Mike did an interview with Adobe senior vice president and chief software architect Kevin Lynch about Apollo over on TalkCrunch and I recently interviewed Mike Downey, the Sr. Product Manager for Apollo. I also interviewed Kevin Lynch himself about Apollo earlier this year.
So as entrepreneurs and developers, you need to be aware of the potential impact of Apollo. The desktop will see the same creative infusion that the web once did, but with more features and with the web’s most ubiquitous display formats (HTML, Flash and PDF). Early adopters to the platform have the potential to reap a bonanza and bring about the gold-rush like mentality that swept the web. Is someone going to figure out how to serve AdWords on the desktop with Apollo’s online/offline capabilities? Is it a new way to deliver rich media? A killer solution for email that spans web and desktop and integrates IM or VoIP? A new way to tie customers back to online properties? Desktop development is now going to be as open as web development was and the entrepreneurial spirit is going to bring about some fantastic innovation that blends the best of the web and the best of the desktop. That’s something that end users and startups alike will benefit from.
Ryan Stewart is an expert in Rich Internet Applications. Ryan writes his personal blog here and also writes a RIA blog for ZDNet called The Universal Desktop. We hope to have him back regularly to review new Adobe Apollo applications.