Microsoft, Adobe Releases Reflect Debate over Where Rich Media Apps Are Headed


Look out, there's a new Java -- kinda.


This Wall Street Journal piece today gives an investor (i.e., non-technical) run-through of Adobe's Flash-like Apollo and Microsoft's Silverlight, both of which are touted as further steps in the march toward rich-media applications that can run in all standard browsers, and even on Macs.


Getting a clear picture of what's going on with any new tech is kinda tough, but the best item I've seen on the new Adobe tech is this InformationWeek piece that describes Apollo as a toolkit/runtime that lets Flash apps talk to online servers, but also run and store info locally (one example is an eBay search archive).


This more technical piece at WebProNews describes Silverlight as a developers' kit, very similar to .NET, that is targeted for rich Internet applications -- kinda like Flash is now. A big focus with Silverlight is its ability to play all kinds of video, including the accursed Quicktime.


The fact that Microsoft is launching a push-button developer kit for rich Internet applications seems woefully behind the times, given that Adobe's (formerly Macromedia's) Flash has 85 percent penetration in a market that is largely dependent on Redmond's own browser. Bill Gates, sell software -- remember?


News that both Apollo and Silverlight will be largely independent of platform -- future Linux compatibility is up in the air -- has evoked comparisons to Java. But Flash can already run in pretty much any browser. And of course Flash has always been able to talk to a database online -- here's a particularly annoying example.


The big news here, it seems to me, is that Adobe recognizes PC hard drives aren't going anywhere, and that serial ATA is a much better way to access a favorite video than a cable modem -- particularly on a plane. The same can be said for data, although I'm having a hard time imagining a sexy in-house Flash app that would be particularly useful except in the most rich media-centric organizations.


This InfoWorld blog post points out that that Adobe isn't alone in bucking the Google "everything in the browser" model and pursuing client-based RIAs. (Many sources, including this post, describe them as "offline," but of course they'll be about as "offline" as your current Web browser application that runs on your hard drive.)


The press is playing up the dual releases as a head-to-head battle between Adobe and Microsoft, particularly since Adobe is launching an Apollo-based media player of its own, which SearchViews describes as "the offline accompaniment to Adobe's online Flash player," complete with RSS and commenting, which I have to assume will go online as soon as an Internet connection is detected.


Sounds good, but please -- spare me from Flash video.

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