May 07, 2007 (05:05 AM EDT)
Open Source Move Muddies Rich Internet App Waters

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

Not very long ago there were enterprise developers who did Web applications and other enterprise developers who did streaming and graphical Web programming (illustration, animation, videos, etc.). Essentially these were two different groups who only occasionally would meet on specific projects. That's changing. Whether you pack it into the Web 2.0 rubric or consider new offerings by Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and many others, it's apparent that the worlds of Web applications and rich media are melding into Rich Internet Applications (RIA). I know of a lot of enterprise shops that are lining up on this, because at the gut level (at least) we know it's going to be important - maybe even a dominant part of enterprise software development. Right now, however, this business of melding into RIA is messy.It's early. Developers are becoming sensitized to the need for better Web applications and excited about the potential for more interactive, graphical and media-enhanced applications. At the same time, there are more buzzwords, barely baked products and pronouncements on direction than ever. Developers have an excuse to be confused and IT managers skeptical.

Case in point: On April 26th Adobe announced that it would make its Flex SDK open source. If this opens a big "?" in your mind, you be not alone. For many, the fact that Adobe (and previously Macromedia) spent the last couple of years moving mountains of code into position to develop Rich Internet Applications registers little or no blip on the radar. Those who have done media-oriented projects certainly know Adobe Flash and maybe know about developing Flash programs with Flex and Adobe Flex Builder. Other developers, not so much.

Yet it is reasonable to say that Adobe holds the pole position on Rich Internet Applications. Flash Player, the browser plug-in that provides the essential graphics engine, is already installed on many millions of computers. While Adobe/Macromedia is not alone in providing Flash development tools, it certainly has the insider's edge. So, putting the core of its Flash development process (the Flex SDK, including: Java source code for ActionScript, MXML compilers, ActionScript debugger, and core libraries) into open source under the Mozilla Public License (MPL) is a dramatic move. It stakes a position against new and formidable competitor-Microsoft and its Silverlight media application player. In a way, Microsoft's recent entry validates the technical advantages of a dedicated Web application graphics engine, but it puts the pressure on Adobe to shore up Flash and Flex as firmly as possible.

Developers know about open source, of course. It has a certain cachet. Microsoft has not made any part of Silverlight or the development elements in Visual Studio .Net open source. So Adobe gets to be righteous, even though Adobe has a reputation for being stoutly proprietary. It should be noted that Adobe's use of open source in this case does not extend to the Flash Player, Flex Builder, Flex Charting, Flex Data Services or to the portion of the Flex SDK related to Eclipse. Still, going open-source on the Flex SDK appeals to many developers; hopefully, if the project is well managed, within a year or two Adobe will be able to show a stronger Flex code-base that will seamlessly dovetail with its own commercial IDE, the new application player "Apollo," and all the other related Adobe graphics products. We don't know if this will be accomplished with melding, welding or bolting, but we'll keep an eye on it and try to keep it all straight.

Nelson King has been a software developer for more than twenty-five years. Further complications include being a computer-industry analyst, product reviewer and author (of nine books on database programming). He's been writing for Intelligent Enterprise (and its precursors) for more than ten years. Write him at nelsonking@earthlink.netWhether you pack it into the Web 2.0 rubric or consider new offerings by Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and many others, it's apparent that the worlds of Web applications and rich media are melding into Rich Internet Applications (RIA)… It's going to be important - maybe even a dominant part of enterprise software development. Right now, however, this business of melding into RIA is messy.