Web 2.0 RAIA GUI: Better Than the Desktop?


Some people believe that Web GUI operations cannot even remotely match those available on the desktop – be that Windows 7 with its Aero goodies or Apple Snow Leopard with its refined look and often copied navigational features. I would beg to differ. Desktop GUI is playing catch up to mobile and the Web. Gestures were first delivered via Opera browser  on its UI. Multi-touch has been a mobile phone innovation. And with RIA apps powered by DHTML and/or Flash, Web 2.0 GUI is now as good as if not better than Desktop GUIs. Let me show you a live PDF on the Web – kick the tires, click a button or two:

Here is another example. Now just below is a screenshot of a Windows desktop displaying the same PDF in the desktop Acrobat 8.10 reader using the default features:

Now what Issuu.com has done in refining PDF’s presentation on the Web is very much similar to what Microsoft Bing is doing to Google search [in a bit of irony given Microsoft’s pillaging of Web standards] – Issuu has bested desktop Acrobat on the presentation side with nicer navigational and control features.

Well you say, take a look at Acrobat.com and note what Adobe has made available there. Well here is a screen shot of the same PDF at Acrobat.com:

Now what the developers have done at Issuu.com is go beyond the free version of Acrobat.com. There are Mac-like navigational features plus more innovative controls. They not only make their Web PDF Player embeddable on your websites and blogs [as done here] but have made the embedded player readily customizable. In fact there is a public JavaScript API for developers that want to fully customize their Issuu-powered PDFs.

RAIA Power

The Web API is actually moving rapidly beyond RIA-Rich Internet Application towards RAIA – Rich Anywhere Interface Applications. This trend is happening in 3 important ways.  First, rich interfaces are no longer the exclusive purview of the desktop. Speed and memory improvements plus ever increasing Web bandwidth and AJAX-inspired caching technologies now allow JavaScript and Flash to perform as fast as many desktops. Second, GUI has not only gone crossplatform but quite uniformly so. One of the attractions of Adobe AIR and Flash is that it runs remarkably uniformly in Windows, Mac, and Linux plus all the major browsers. Ditto for DHTML despite Microsoft lagging so far behind on CSS, DOM, JavaScript and a host of other Web Standards. Third, offline operation is coming to the Web. It is part of the HTML 5 standard and all the major browser vendors [with Redmond hedging its promises- does this sound like a a set of deliberate procrastination and proprietization tactics?] pledging to implement 5 quickly. Fourth, with the growth of mobile phones, developers are looking to RAIA tools like Flash/Air and Web 2.0 DHTML to provide a one stop shop for program development. Look for  Adobe with Flash/Air and the Google-led DHTML/Web 2.0 Browser vendors to replace proprietary Apple Objective C or Microsoft Silverlight/C#/ASP in more apps that have to be able to perform anywhere – desktop, mobile, Netbook, or the growing number of embedded devices.

The writing is on the Wall=> Proprietary is on the way out. Ever faster CPUs plus large speed improvemengts to JavaScript and ActionScript means RAIA can be very fast. Besides, proprietary incurs not only higher development costs [possibly with more speed but less often better features]; but also higher maintenance  costs as well. On the server-side, proprietary has lead to isolated silos of information requiring expensive and costly transfer/translation programs. One of the fundamental attractions of Cloud Computing is that these proprietary barriers are reduced as a data and applications are offered with a common interface that in the case of RAIA can be used anywhere and online plus offline.

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