Battle for RIA Supremacy

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-02-25 Print this article Print


With the release of Adobe AIR and Flex 3, Adobe has fired its latest volley at Microsoft in the battle for RIA supremacy. The two companies have been duking it out over which has the best and most complete story for designers and developers, as well as for helping designers and developers work together via designer/developer workflow tools.

Microsoft entered the competition with its Expression Suite of designer tools; the cross-browser, cross-platform Silverlight run-time for creating RIAs; and the WFP (Windows Presentation Foundation). Now Adobe is upping the ante by releasing Adobe AIR and Flex 3.  

"I feel like I'm watching a tennis match," said Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond. "We're seeing a great game of serve and volley. I think Microsoft put the pressure on Adobe last summer with Silverlight 1.0's VC-1 codec support and the tight integration between Expression and Visual Studio. In the fall Adobe responded nicely with H.264/HE- AAC support and now by shipping AIR 1.0."

For a look back at 25 years of Adobe, click here.  

Hammond said he is impressed with the AIR release. "They've done a lot of thinking about security in particular," he said. "That's critical when you start to break down the barriers between the browser and the desktop. I still think that Expression and Visual Studio's shared project model is a bit friendlier when it comes to designer/developer collaboration, but I think AIR and Flex 3.0 get the edge over Silverlight 1.0 when it comes to depth of programming model and developer capability. In that area Adobe's clearly served the ball back onto Microsoft's side of the net-or .Net, if you prefer-and the pressure's on for Microsoft to get Silverlight 2.0 out the door."  

Michael Cote, an analyst with RedMonk, said Adobe and Microsoft are coming at the RIA product line challenge from opposite directions.  

"Their efforts and hiccups so far match this pretty well. Adobe's base is largely built of -designers' and people who are more creative than programmer-minded. Microsoft, of course, is coming from the developer angle and base," Cote said. "There's this idea of a designer/developer out there that we've been chasing forever: a person who can not only write clean code, but make the result look good and be usable. Both Microsoft and Adobe and all the other RIA -toolers' are racing toward being the tool supplier for this designer/developer persona."  

Cote said Adobe comes out looking strong because it has had a head start on making things look good through design.  

"I mean, the Adobe tool chain is the de facto standard for design in this regard," he said. "Microsoft, on the other hand, has the ability to pull from the entire .Net and Redmond brain trust when it comes to programming. We're hoping to see Silverlight 2.0 deliver on a large part of this theory that Microsoft can dominate the developer side of things. Silverlight 2.0 enables users to access all the resources of the .Net Framework. I'm continually surprised by the number of Java developers and shops I encounter who are already using and liking Flex. A 1.0 version of AIR could find a lot of easy uptake among that crowd. More importantly, I have a dim view of Java people taking a liking to Microsoft."  

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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