2007 was a really great year for RIA technologies and looking ahead 2008 will be far bigger. As a technical evangelist for Adobe, I spend a majority of my days working with external developers building RIA applications and internal Adobe teams building the next generation of RIA development tools, servers, and services. I thought I would share my perspective and highlight the trends heading into 2008.
2008 RIA (Rich Internet Application) Trends
Logic is being moved to the edge of the Internet and executing on your computer. Your computer’s CPU, memory, and hard drive are being leveraged to create better applications delivered over the Internet. Be it via the browser, Flash Player, Java, or AIR, the trend of delivering client side logic integrated with servers/services will dominate 2008 as a trend. At some point these applications will run serverless/offline on your machine and talk to services both online and locally. There will be a ton of competition in 2008 for developers writing distributed applications as Sun, Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, Apple, and Adobe push major RIA platforms into the market. If anything it will be a wild ride for RIA in 2008.
Services! Services! Services!
2008 will be the year of services and I expect to see an explosion of services launch that run both on the Internet and your local computer. Distributed applications need services and they will be running everywhere near and far. Be it on your local machine or on some far off grid/cluster/utility, services will be sending messages all over the place. Armed with API keys, we will be storing data and interacting with the cloud on a level we never saw in 2007. Among the services I am watching are Google Gears, Adobe “Voice”, Microsoft’s Live, and several in development at Yahoo!.
AIR – Adobe Integrated Runtime
AIR is going big in 2008. I have been very impressed with the AIR team and AIR 1.0 is looking to be a huge breakthrough for Adobe. AIR will make creating deployable cross-platform desktop applications a reality. Today writing cross-platform software is hard as you typically need to write the application 3 times, one for each major platform. AIR changes this and allows you to write one application and install the same file on 3 platforms securely. Deploying a new desktop platform is no easy task regarding security and compatibility but the AIR team went way beyond the call with AIR 1.0. I am looking to release several AIR applications after the 1.0 release.
In 2008, we will see lots of competition emerge in the grid/cluster/utility computing market. Amazon took a bold lead in 2007 with EC2 but this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Sun and others have major initiatives underway for utility computing and are racing to provide a foundation for service creation. Considering that many of these companies spent 2007 building massive data center capacity in Oregon, we will see the cost of cluster computing spiral downward. These clusters will support the creation of many new services supporting voice, storage, presence, and hosting will never be the same. If there were an ideally situated company it would be RightScale as they have the opportunity to be the service API atop several cluster/grid providers.
The RIA Full Monty – Flash, Flex, “Thermo”, “Bordeaux”
At Adobe, we are working on several tools for building Flash Player and AIR based applications. Creating content for Flash Player is becoming a very large market and we are building new development paradigms for creating RIA experiences. I will refrain on going into specifics but 2008 will be filled with many tools for SWF creation. Make sure to be in attendance at Adobe MAX 2008 in San Francisco, we will be delivering the goods.
Mobile and Devices
We will see some great innovation in the mobile and device space in 2008 and potentially see the first real cross-device application platforms emerge. Google’s Android, Apple’s iPhone/OSX, Flash Player/AIR are racing for a leadership position for application platforms and there is no clear leader. We are seeing more and more devices that are capable of running Flash Player 9 and 2008 may be the year we cross over from Flash Lite to running the full Flash Player on many devices. The recent release of Tamarin-Tracing is clear progress towards seeing Flash Player and AIR everywhere. Just keep it is mind that the market for mobile and devices is far larger than any existing software market. Everyone will have a device capable of running applications in their pocket.
Apple’s RIA Platform
I think 2008 will be the year Apple enters the RIA market. I have been quietly watching the changes within iTunes/Quicktime with a watchful eye. Looking at iTunes, the web presentation layer has made some amazing changes and added very rich controls in the last 6 months. The advanced UI controls, sliders, coverflow, menuing, image/data loading are really impressive and are all mark-up driven. Seeing as this platform is cross-platform, widely deployed, and based on WebKit/Quicktime, I think Apple has an entry into the RIA market in store for 2008. How, when, or if this will occur is wide open but something is cooking here.
Call me crazy but I think Erlang is going to explode in 2008 as a service development language. Today all programming languages really ignore concurrency and make development of scalable distributed services very hard. Erlang makes this easy and leverages the N-core machines arriving in the market. Recently Jabber.org switched over to a Erlang based XMPP architecture and Amazon launched SimpleDB built atop Erlang. Honestly, Erlang is powerful dark magic and can peel the paint off your house in parallel.
It looks like a great year for software developers all around. Just remember, programming is not a spectators sport!