This week Ryan Stewart and I talk with André Charland of Nitobi. We cover some brief RIA news from the past few weeks and then get into RIA predictions for 2008. Thanks to Kurt Brockett for the predictions suggestion.
Well, exciting and stressful are synonyms, right?
Usability, User Experience, and RIAs
After a brief note on the holiday vacations we each had, André mentions the recent 60 Minutes piece on software usability which leads into a discussion of what usability and user experience people are or aren’t doing in the RIA space. While Microsoft put out a recent white-paper on the topic (sort of), Ryan says he hasn’t seen many UX people taking up RIA concerns, for example on the IXDA list. We talk about what might be differences for usability concerns with RIAs: André mentions the low switching cost between applications and then we discuss the usability of data portability.
We then discuss my old hobby-horse: will this while designer/developer theory really pan out, or will it just be more of the same? The classic problem of the UI designers and the programmers not getting along is the one to get over here, and past attempts like JSPs in J2EE loom as not too successful attempts to harmonize the two. Ryan and André point out that this time, the initiative is lead more by designers than developers, and that they’re seeing more developers who are actually a merging of the two. (James and Dan McWeeney spoke on this topic on RedMonkTV sometime back.)
In contrast to the front-end concerns of the designer/developer question, we then talk about Adobe’s open sourcing of BlazeDS, a sub-set of their LiveCycle Services. BlazeDS, boiled down, is a messaging framework and protocol between the server and the browser, intended to be used, of course with Flex.
Using Anne Zelenka’s new book on web working as a launching point, we talk about the role of collaboration in RIA’s in 2008. I ask what this often over-loaded term “collaboration” means in the context of RIAs. The answer is essentially boils down to sharing artifacts (like a document or spreadsheet) in group rather than passing them around in email or other forms. More importantly, as we touch on in much of the rest of the episode, we’re looking for “unified collaboration” that better integrates together all the existing tools we use into one place, like IM, document sharing, desktop sharing, etc.
2008 RIA Predictions
After talking about ways of coping with inboxes overflowing from vacation, we move on to RIA predictions for 2008.
Ryan starts out saying that Silverlight 2.0 is going to be a big deal. André agrees, saying that once they formalize the generic user interface elements – like buttons – it will indeed be something to watch, not to mention the ability for Microsoft to spread runtimes.
I mention that 2008 will be the year for JavaFX to get finalized. But then move quickly back to Adobe and layout my hope to see Adobe complete their move to providing applications in the form of a hosted Office contender: they’ve already got Buzzword, Share, and Connect, just lacking spreadsheets and presentations.
Rails’ Effect on RIA-land
On the more industry-wide perspective, I outline the scenario where Zed Shaw’s rant kicks off (or is just an early indication of) rails disenchantment, pulling rails developers into the RIA world. Or, on the other hand, if rails gains in popularity, pulling attention from the RIA world.
André returns to the topic of RIA integration, reaching back to the collaboration integration topic and explains how that could become a big deal in 2008.
RIA Code-generation Frameworks
We then talk about frameworks that spit out RIA’s for you, like GWT, RAP (see our screencasts on RAP), and the recently announced Microsoft Volta. André has seen some interesting anecdotal uptake of these “spits out RIAs” tools.
We raise everyone’s favorite RIA dark-horse, Apple. Ryan and André seem to share my dim-outlook that they’d do much in the area of RIA as we know it. Instead, and I joke, they’d probably say they already have a good tool-chain for user interfaces: just buy a Mac! On the other hand, as Ryan says, with webkit and QuickTime, it seems like they’ve gotta be up to something.
Amazon Web Services & Component-services for RIAs
We close out with a question from Ryan about how things like Amazon Web Services will play with RIAs. André notes that Nitobi has uses AWS to great success for their Robot Replay site and imagines that RIA people will see much use and good from AWS. I agree, noting that while other companies make claims to have similar capabilities, Amazon is the only one who makes it drop dead simple to use. Pulling up a layer from the infrastructure AWS provides, André notes that it’d be great if other services – like Buzzword – were broken up into services and components that could be re-used. For example, why write you’re own rich editor when you could use a Buzzword component?
…thanks again to André for calling in!
Disclaimer: Adobe, Microsoft, and Sun are clients.