Earlier this month Adobe released their new cross-OS runtime that will allow developers to channel their existing web development skills including Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax, XML, Java, ActionScript and many others, into building and deploying desktop RIA’s or Rich Internet Applications. RIA’s are simply web-based applications that have the features and the functionality of conventional desktop applications.
And make no mistake, this is where the desktop computing environment for the enterprise is heading so read on and brush up.
You’ve used them before and you will use them even more in the very near future. A few examples of some of the more popular RIAs that we all know and love include such applications as Outlook Web Access, Flickr, and Google Calendar are just a few in a list of hundreds of very useful and mostly free applications and the list grows longer.
While RIA’s are still in their infancy, the justification for using this technique of application development offers a laundry list of reasons. For starters, and probably the number one reason for most, is the fact that there is no installation required for the application to run on your computer. That alone solves an enormous problem of both deploying and updating computer applications.
But the benefits don’t stop there, not by a long shot.
In fact with most RIA’s updates and new version are deployed automatically, meaning that you never even know it happened. RIA run in a “sandbox”, a secured environment on your computer so viral infections are practically eliminated. Another great feature of an RIA is that the user can use the application from any Internet connected computer, removing the need to install the application on multiple machines, so all you IT Asset Managers… this can have a huge impact on licensing issues.
Finally, as the first sentence in this article states, it is cross-OS or a cross-platform application meaning that it largely negates compatibility worries. Yet, as with everything in this world, RIA have their good points and their not so good points.
There are some limitations to RIAs. The “Sandbox” architecture I mentioned a moment ago has inherent problems with system resources on the local client and while and RIA does not have to be “installed” on the client, they do often have to run a “delivery script” or a “client engine” and often this can result in a time-consuming download.
So what exactly is this “Apollo” you speak of?
As we mentioned before, Apollo is simply the codename for Adobe’s new cross-OS runtime that was created to allow developers to use their current web development skills to build RIAs for the desktop. What’s more, the runtime is free. Oh and one more thing — and the reason I am writing this article — applications built with Apollo don’t need a web browser to function.
Just double click the icon on your desktop and the application will launch. To the end user, it will look just like a locally installed application.
Since the technology is new, there aren’t yet many examples of the application to demonstrate its rich capabilities however there are a few that you can check out to get a sense of where this is all going. Some examples of applications being developed using Apollo include an application called FineTune that allows you to quickly access to your custom play lists and keeps track of your favorite music.
Another application created using Apollo is yourminis.com which allows users to check their email, get the weather, search the web, browse Flickr photos, read the news, take notes, listen to music and much more. You’ll have to download the Apollo runtime plug-in in order to view the examples and begin using applications created using Apollo.
We expect to be seeing office productivity tools for spread sheets, word processing flow charts and many others in the coming months but don’t think these are going to be anything similar to the current web-apps like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, AjaxWrite, gOffice, and ThinkFree. Applications built using Apollo will be seamless to the end-user. As far as they will be concerned, those Web-based applications are running right off the computers hard-drive.
Apollo is currently in Alpha and is available as a free download. Apollo 1.0 is due to be released sometime in the second half of 2007 but in the meantime, we expect to see many new desktop-based applications being delivered using this new technology which will continue to drive the locally installed applications to web-based servers. For administrators, this clears the way for less expensive and easier to manage desktop environments.
This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.