Having been involved in the Flash Player evolution since 1997, the value of “Rich with Reach” has become ever more obvious to me of late. The long term success of Flash Player and more recently AJAX, are based at their core on the idea of widely deployable rich technologies. It is a balance of devlivering the richest user experience that supports the largest customer base, ie. Rich with Reach.
I want to take a look at the various rich technologies from a RICH/REACH perspective. I have selected AJAX, WPF, APOLLO, WPFE, FLASH as the base technologies. I first provide a score on RICH and REACH and then explain the technology and my opinion on the matter.
HTML – RICH:3 REACH:10
SM-HTML+CSS+JS – RICH:5 REACH:8
LG-HTML+CSS+JS – RICH:7 REACH:6
WPF RICH:9 REACH:1
Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation, WPF provides a way to deliver rich desktop applications on Windows Vista and XP (with surgery). These applications take advantage of specialized hardware, allow for all sorts of 3D/vector functionality, and leverage the .NET runtime. The problem here is reach. It is certainly rich, but Windows Vista adoption is expected to be much slower than XP. It will be a long time before this is a viable choice for desktop application development with the same reach that XP had. Also more generally the rise of Apple OSX and Linux are key indicators that the native desktop application market will only become more fragmented and platform specific.
“APOLLO” – RICH:7 REACH:? (Scored at M3 Builds, Reach not available )
“Apollo” made its debut last night at ApolloCamp and I think we are going to see some amazing things happen here. “Apollo” embodies “Rich with Reach” in supporting Flash and HTML technologies while being 100% cross-platform compatible. In allowing a single binary .AIR file to run cross-platform on Windows, OSX, and Linux we are going to see a revolution occur. “Apollo” isn’t the richest runtime (lack of feature XYZ) but over time I think it will support 90% of all desktop application and in its first release it will support a healthy 80%. If you look at applications in general, many are pure data entry and in this class Apollo is a sweet spot. Then again developers are going to innovate on Apollo and will push it to the limit. Last night EffectiveUI presented a framework that extends Apollo using a local server model. The developer used a Wii remote via BlueTooth as a light saber in an game written with “Apollo”. Given that Apollo is a 6MB runtime it should get very widely deployed as the runtime need only be installed once on an end users machine.
WPF/E – RICH:4 REACH:? (Scored at PR Builds, Reach not available )
FLASH PLAYER 7 – RICH:6 REACH:9
FLASH PLAYER 8 – RICH:7 REACH:9
FLASH PLAYER 9 – RICH:8 REACH:7
Flash Player 9 is hitting critical mass surpassing the 70% market penetration mark. Every day more and more end users upgrade Flash Player to the latest version at a rate of 5+ Million Flash Players a day and rising. Flash Player 9 is very rich (JIT AS3, graphics, vectors, animation, video, text) and reach improves every single day like clockwork. The growing buzz around Flash Player technologies is that Flash Player 9 is hitting critical mass. Businesses are choosing Flash because of the balance of “Rich with Reach” and a mature development toolset in Flex, Flash, and the CS3 Suite will unleash a set of designer tools that independently are best of breed with seamless developer integration. When a new Flash Player launches it starts with a wimper but over time becomes a huge bang. As Flash Player is backward compatible with all proir SWF files there is a huge market demand for Flash Player from content. And just when you wanted 3D support in Flash Player 9, an open source engine arrives like PaperVision3D to add features and richness that Adobe never anticipated. The Flash ecosystem adds a ton of richness that extends the base feature set of the Flash Player. This aspect is really key to seeing the full value of Flash. It isn’t that the raw technology is great, but that our customers make it even better by extending it and using it in innovative ways. The developer base of Flash adds tremendous value to the RICH side of Flash and in turn drives the REACH by delivering great sites.
What is really cool is that you are never limited to using one technology. Some of the best sites/application I have seen embrace a holistic approach and provide rich content where it makes sense. Using rich content is not an all or nothing choice but rather a wide spectrum from which to pick and choose. Over the next year we are going to see AJAX and Flash become ever closer and work better together. There are shared capabilities that make the use of both better. On the desktop we will see a revolution in “Apollo” in Flash and AJAX based technologies. Better together is the key.
Chose your technology wisely and balance “Rich with Reach”. You will have more happy customers and that is good business.