RIA Irony

RIA – Rich Internet Application are designed to show off what is possible to do both online and offline with the latest Internet enabled programs and interface design tools. Many developers are looking at tools like Adobe Air, Java+JavaFX, Microsoft Silverlight, Trolltech Qt and other tools to provide not just Online but also Offline savvy apps; but ones that allow one codebase to be used regardless of the OS platform or online versus online runtime proportions. Here is a small parable on RIA gone astray.


Look at one of the gorgeous tools that are available at the Kuler online website for color swatch creation. They are fabulous – just what Dr. Calora Huze ordered for creating hues dripping with drama. However, the Kuler tools they are a bit frisky today, not always working [just a few too many “aw Snaps”, go to the site to see what I am talking about] but when they are up and about the results are fabulous.

So I decided to download the Kuler AIR application with the idea that it would take advanatge of AIR’s ability to run online and locally at the sametime – able to use the online connection if available but also capable of storing swatches and doing creative swtch designs locally – with better response time and reliablity than the online Kuler. Tghis would be great …. well not exactly.

First, the local version of Kuler has none of the great creative tools available in the online version. Second and to my surprise since this is an AIR application, Kuler on the PC is almost completely dependent on an online connection. Almost all of the functionality on the AIR desktop refers users back to the online Kuler website. But the whole idea of AIR is to break the online tether gracefully – offer the Kuler user some local functionality when users are unable to connect to the Net. Instead users get some swatches viewing as seen in the screenshot below:

Kuler running locally

The result is that Adobe has missed a golden opportunity to show off the remote + local capability of AIR.


Jing is also a great AIR-like application. It runs on the desktop but takes advantage of online connections if they are available – especially for moving screen capture through email or FTP. I am surpised at the power of Jing because it appears to be one of the better competitors to Snagit its Windows based image capture program [but Snagit has improved notably in version 9, distancing itself from the rest of the screen capture field].

Another advantage of Jing is that it runs in MacOS as well as Windows – thus providing a bridge over to Apple that has restricted Snagit’s reach. I thought this must be an Adobe AIR application – and a superb design showing what AIR can do. But when I went to the Jing program files directory I discovered this was clearly not an Adobe AIR application.

Ahah – so this is a Microsoft Silverlight application, showing how far Silverlight has come in delivering platform independent online or local runtime programs. Well not exactly Silverlight either. Instead, when I enquired I discovered to my surprise this is really two apps: one written in C++ for Windows and the other in Objective C for Apple. What????

This is exactly the dual coding that AIR, Silverlight, Trolltech’s QT, Java and other language delivery systems are designed to eliminate. What was Trolltech doing? They must have some converter from Objective C to C++ or vice versa. But that still leaves a problem when Google’s Linux-based Android and Intel’s Moblin start to hit the Netbook and Smartphone world and surely become big hits. Suddenly Techsmith has to develop in a 3rd and possibly 4th language if they want to extend their great screen capture tools to new platforms.

The Irony

So here is the irony. Adobe with Kuler should be demonstrating the advantage of AIR’s capabilities to run locally with some key functionality while able to take advantage of online facilities for full functionality. Kuler really misses this mandate.

Techsmith with Jing delivers exactly what Kuler misses – great integration of online and local functionality but uses platform specific code to develop Windows and Apple mac versions – so when the situation arises where a new OS platform needs support [which in Gartner speak, has 0.90 probability of happening], Techmith has a lot of additional work to do.

This is why people have to stop thinking in terms of RIA-Rich Internet Applications and more of RAIA-Rich Anywhere Interface Applications because thats where users, designers and developers really want to be.

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