RIA marketing follies

I don’t know anything about software marketing, but if I had to give an impromptu lecture on the subject right now, I’d use the following two posts (with comments) as virtual handouts: Mozilla Labs on Prism and Mike Chambers (of Adobe) on Mozilla Prism and the disingenuous web.

: Difficult to figure out exactly what it is other than expansive and proprietary, so people assume it is an evil attempt to take over the web. Dan Brickley‘s comment on Chambers’ post is illustrative:

Hi thereFrom your post over on Mozilla’s site,

“You do realize that Adobe AIR is as much about HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc… as it is about Flash / Flex?”

Just as a point of feedback: I had no idea of this. I’ve seen a lot of mentions of Air around the Web of course, but not dug into its official docs. Well I assumed AIR could probably handle HTML, maybe even bits of SVG if you’ve got webkit in there, but I somehow had the impression it was primarily all about Flash. Quite probably I didn’t bother to read up on it properly because, for better or worse, I somewhat expected a Flash-centric agenda, and so didn’t take the time to investigate what I unreflectively figured was “Adobe’s new Flash-based thingy”. If it is more standards-friendly, there’s a chicken and egg problem in getting this news out to developers who may tune out when they hear “Adobe toolkit” on assumption it’ll be Flash-flash-flash. I’m happy to be re-educated anyway :)

Will Air support (interactive) SVG to any level? Or the W3C widgets work (http://www.w3.org/TR/widgets/) ?

Tellingly (in terms of marketing if not reality), Brickley’s questions have gone unanswered.

: Open source and so simple that there’s almost nothing there (open a URL from a desktop icon in a browser with some web navigation features removed) that people instantly “get” it (and the bigger ideas behind it) and looooove it.

I suspect that an AIR application can accomplish the same limited functionality with just a bit more code than hello world and that AIR provides much more. But unless Adobe can effectively communicate what the heck AIR is and exactly how it works with open standards, it will be eaten for breakfast by the slow (for good reason — more fully featured web/desktop integration will raise all kinds of thorny security, synchronization and software update issues) web juggernaut. As some commenters pointed out, the obvious thing for Adobe to do is to “work with Mozilla and other players to standardize these features.”

Then there’s the obvious joke about AIR (although that link does include the appropriate reference to vapor, it concerns something surprising and somewhat — an attempt to make Java Applets — relevant).

Don’t know what any of this is about? Try Rear Guard Applications for perspective.

3 Responses

  1. Ryan Stewart says:

    Hey Mike, what questions can I answer? Right now there are no plans to support SVG or the widget stuff that the W3C is doing. AIR is primarily about being able to take your web applications and turn them into real desktop applications. You can interact with the file system, you can detect whether your application is online or offline, do notification windows, associate file types and create native custom chromed windows.

    AIR is meant to let web developers use all of their skills to build real desktop applications. You can use either Flash or HTML/JS and in fact wit script bridging you can kind of pull the best of both worlds. But AIR doesn’t require you to use Flash at all, there are a lot of cool HTML-only apps out there.


  2. Ryan, thanks for the explanation.

    Someone should create a comparison of RIA platforms article to clear up some of the confusion in this ill- or just broadly-defined space.

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