Neal Ford has a great post here highlighting how the new enthusiasm for Rich Internet Applications is an attempt by the big vendors to capture the kind of platform marketshare that the Win32 API had back in the 90’s.
Which brings us around to the current hotness, Rich Internet Applications (RIA). Ever wonder why Adobe and Microsoft are slugging it out for that space? And Sun is running along behind with JavaFX saying “Wait, we want to fight too!”. It’s the new platform play. We’ve dealt with the pain of writing good looking web applications so long that when someone comes along and shows pretty pixels, we swoon. Yes, you can create beautiful applications using Silverlight and Flex. And Sun showed some awesome demos of JavaFX at JavaOne. But, if you write an application in one of those tools, you’ve bought a platform. You are no longer in a standards space. You can’t take a Silverlight application and port it to Flex without a rewrite. Same goes with JavaFX. Whoever wins the RIA war has the new dominant web platform, just like Win32 back in the day. Sounds like a good reason for big companies to pour resources into the effort.
Bringing up that Web-based applications are standards based highlights the unique position that Adobe has with it’s AIR platform. You can use FLEX/Flash to create your RIA in AIR, but you can also use web standards markup and script to create an RIA. But even if you use Flex, the compiler and SDK are available under the Mozilla Public License. JavaFX will be available under the GPL once it is released. Adobe even opened up the Flash player. My point being that even though there isn’t a standard in place for those technologies, the format is open enough and allows people to build their own implimentations of those technologies.