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RIA Weekly #06 – What's Behind Code-Behind, JavaFX with Adobe tools, Microsoft/Yahoo!, and other acquisitions

RedMonk 5th Birthday Party

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Ryan Stewart and I start by reviewing the fun of the RedMonk 5th birthday party, but then jump right into a brief discussion of Kevin Lynch getting promoted to the new Adobe CTO. Kevin Lynch came from the Macromedia effort and had been heading the “platform group” at Adobe, Flash, Flex, and AIR. As I note, this is a nice signaling from Adobe about the importance of RIA’s in their future: rather than promoting someone from the Creative or PDF side, the Flash family was given an executive role. As Ryan says, the Flash family of products are core to Adobe’s future.

Then we jump into a JavaFX update. I was at the Sun Analyst Event this past week. But, the interesting news of JavaFX was mentioned by The Register and picked up by the Java Posse: the JavaFX folks are going to use, or integrate with, the Adobe toolchain. As we discuss, I don’t know what this means and the Sun Java client folks wouldn’t tell me. But the intention is to work with the Adobe creative tools rather than build up the equivilent in the NetBeans world.

Ryan, of course, likes this idea being an Adobe person. He notes that Adobe has been trying to figure out and refine the designer/developer tool-flow themselves, coming out with Thermo in response to Microsoft’s Blend and Expression. On this topic, I mention a post by Jesse Warden on how much he hates “code-behind” in Microsoft world. I wasn’t sure what this code-behind stuff was, so Ryan explains that it’s a way of separating out code from the UI layer. This sounds like the kind of thing a more purely developer mindsetted person would love, but a quick-and-fast designer would think was overly complicated. If you’re never going to progress beyond “1.0” of a project, why worry about keeping your project “clean.”

Our further discussing gets to an interesting point of a potential conflict between developers and designers: developers assume there’s a lot more stability in your code base, putting out dependencies to all sorts of parts of the project. Designers, perhaps, are a bit looser with keeping things stable.

Ryan asks for more details from the Sun Analyst Event, and it turns out I don’t have much but happy talk to give him: they’ve got a team of high paid people working on JavaFX, so it’s not just a last minute after thought to compete in the RIA world.

Pulling one of the points from my Sun Gambling on Utopia post, I note that part of the overall Sun for success is an opening of the American telcos to have less locked-down handsets. Obviously, JavaFX fits into this scenario as a money-maker, as it does for Adobe who’s recently into mobile as a growth platform. Until that time, though, we’ve just got the web.

While on the topic of handsets, Ryan throws in a Google Android mention, raising the clarification question from me “does Android have a UI layer?” The answer is no. Both of us aren’t sure if you could, for example, port the Flash Player to Android, or if the platform is locked down like the iPhone to such options. This raises a review of the seeming opening up of Apple’s mind about an “iPhone SDK”: the message started as “web applications are all you need, why would you need an SDK” and slowly evolved to promises for something else…which we haven’t seen yet.

Ryan than asks for my thoughts on the Microsoft/Yahoo! deal. As I warn, I give terrible answers to questions like this because I tend to think optimistically. That said, I paint the negative scenario first: Microsoft buys Yahoo! and kills the potential goodness by converting Yahoo! “from PHP to ASP.” That is, Microsoft imposes their technology platform on Yahoo!, the assumption there being that Yahoo! is everything buy a Microsoft shop.

This is the natural – bad – thing you’d expect from Microsoft as an “Elder Company.” They’ve built up their own software stack and their core-belief, along with the promises they make to customers, is that this Microsoft stack is best possible way to do software. So, naturally, they’d want to convert people over to The Best Stack.

As the more positive track, I note that we’ve all been waiting for Microsoft to deliver on the whole Ray Ozzie vision of SaaS. Though Microsoft never uses that term, they led us on to believe via Ozzie’s memos and notes that something more web-native was coming. So far, not much there, at least that’s stuck. So, buying Yahoo! is perhaps delivering on that strategy.

See this week’s The Gang for more on the “Microhoo” topic. Also, RedMonk’s own James Governor hit up the developer angle quite well when it comes to Microsoft and Yahoo!.

I then try to hit Ryan back by asking what he thinks about Oracle buying BEA. But, being a front-end guy, he rightly doesn’t get too excited about middleware. That said, as we’ve discussed in previous episodes, Oracle has been using Flex a lot recently. Ryan asks me what BEA gets Oracle.

I say that Oracle is quick moving into being a middleware holding company, and BEA brings some assets that are worth holding: Tuxedo, WebLogic, and their whole SOA/Portal screed. While RedMonk hasn’t figured out “an in” at Oracle – though, we’ve tried, we keep hitting a brick wall of un-interest – from our experience with a former client who was acquired by Oracle, Sleepycat, they seem to acquire companies and at the very least just keep that company going with minimal “mucking around” with the company. There was that whole Fusion Middleware vs. Fusion Architecture hoopla which seems to have been deftly swept under the rung in favor of keeping the PeopleSoft, Siebel, and Oracle Financials people happy rather than re-writing – Fusing, if you will – those three mega-products into one stack.

Getting back to Microsoft and Yahoo!, we note that Microsoft buying Yahoo! would be kind of awkward for Silverlight: Yahoo! is one of the high-posting users of Flash and friends, so owning one of the primary successful customers cases for a Silverlight competitor would be, you know, weird. Once again, the negative path is to assume that Microsoft would go through the pain of converting Yahoo! over to Silverlight. As I noted in a recent FiveRuns TakeFive interview, I have a dim view of re-write success.

We wrap up with a review of future guests we’re working on: Alex Russell from Dojo, Alex Barnett from Bungee Labs, and Bill Higgins, the Ajax man from IBM Rational Jazz.

Disclaimer: Sun, Adobe, IBM, and Microsoft are clients. See the RedMonk clients list for other RedMonk clients mentioned.

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Categories: Enterprise Software, Programming, RIA Weekly.

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