Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Java Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Kathy Thomas

Related Topics: AJAX & REA, Java, .NET, Adobe Flex, Silverlight, AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo

AJAX & REA: Article

Rich Internet Applications: Has Microsoft Finally Seen the (Silver) Light?

Even web developers that are comfortable with AJAX or Flex will soon need to immerse themselves in Silverlight

In response to the proliferation of other frameworks used to create rich Internet applications such as Flex from Adobe (formerly from Macromedia) and AJAX-based frameworks, Microsoft Silverlight was recently introduced.

All three of these applications, as well as the others on the market, enable a web developer to create an interface on a web page that is much more robust than traditional HTML-based pages once were. Extending the limits of HTTP/HTML, these technologies use proprietary rendering engines running within the browser, and XML as the major language with which to communicate with servers.

Microsoft’s entry into the arena of rich Internet applications represents the company’s desire to create its own version of the technology that extends the reach of their .NET framework.

What Are Rich Internet Applications?
Rich Internet applications provide an end user with an interface that is more responsive than traditional applications. Many of the frameworks used to create these applications, including both Microsoft Silverlight and Flex, bring more of the processing to the client rather than leaving it on a centralized server. The user’s browser does not exchange large, monolithic blocks of information, but rather sends small pieces of data at a time, usually asynchronously. And this means that only relevant pieces of the interface need to updated, allowing users to do more, and do it more quickly, than traditional web applications allow. For this reason, more and more web applications use rich Internet technology of some type to give the end user an optimal experience.

There are of course many other frameworks for rich Internet applications in use today, but Flex, AJAX, and Microsoft Silverlight are three that are more commonly known, and each merits a more in-depth look.

Flex
Currently, Flex has the largest market share of any other framework for rich Internet applications, with a penetration of around 90 percent, something that Microsoft Silverlight is challenging. Flex is built on Flash technology, which was originally designed to manage multimedia functionality. The Flash plug in, which is supported by most major browsers, and is freely available for download, runs its programs in what is known as a “sandbox” - a separate entity from the browser itself, and a secure environment that protects the user. When used properly, Flex enables a website to behave like a thick client application (one that exists solely on a user’s computer rather than on the Internet).

As with any client-side technology, there are drawbacks. Not all browsers start out with the Flash plug in installed, and Flash is also updated from time to time. In either case, the end user is required to download a new version if he or she reaches a page that requires it. Other frameworks for rich Internet applications have the same issue, which is seen by some as a drawback since not all users will (or are permitted to) download the plug in, and in many cases will navigate away from the page entirely.

Microsoft Silverlight
Microsoft Silverlight was created to compete with Flex and with other frameworks for rich Internet applications that are already in use. It is based on .NET technology and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), which is a part of .NET 3.0. While .NET is a Windows-centric technology, Microsoft Silverlight offers a lightweight version of .NET that is cross platform (running on the Mac OS as well as Windows) and that runs in a browser sandbox.

AJAX
AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is a programming interface that is slowly gaining acceptance by some of the larger web presences, including Google (which leverages AJAX heavily in its Mail and Maps applications). As with the other frameworks for rich Internet applications and technologies in existence, AJAX gives a developer the ability to create a web page that behaves like a thick client application. However, it requires an understanding of the JavaScript language. In addition, not all browsers handle Javascript in the same way, and many users disable JavaScript in their browsers, both drawbacks of AJAX when compared to other frameworks.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Microsoft Silverlight
The main drawback of Microsoft Silverlight at the current time is that it is not as widely used as Flex, and therefore could cause users to leave a web page using it rather than download the necessary plug in. Using Microsoft Silverlight would require a developer to leave behind the application with the greatest number of users and embrace a newer, untested application (with, admittedly, a well-respected and trusted company - Microsoft - behind it).

However, Microsoft Silverlight is very appealing for developers who already know .NET. While a developer would have to learn Flash and Flex from square one, he may already have an in-depth understanding of .NET and could therefore jump right into using Silverlight. Since .NET is already very pervasive in the web development world, Silverlight could easily grab market share in the future.

Conclusion
Even web developers that are comfortable with AJAX or Flex (or other frameworks used for creating rich Internet applications) will soon need to immerse themselves in Microsoft Silverlight, while new developers will want to learn about Microsoft Silverlight from the start. Because of its foundation with .NET, Microsoft Silverlight has a smaller learning curve than many other frameworks used to create rich Internet applications.

While it may take the average user some time to warm up to the technology used with Silverlight, Microsoft is a formidable company and is likely to make inroads with its product in the near future and to establish it as an important application to know over the long term. Anyone wanting to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to rich Internet applications will do well to learn about Silverlight now rather than later.

More Stories By Charlie Fink

Charlie Fink is Vice President of Product Development and Delivery for WestLake Training + Development(http://westlaketraining.com). He has been designing and developing leading software solutions for over 15 years and has successfully managed a large number of software projects, including enterprise development, complex data migrations, and decision support systems (DSS). As a project manager, Fink has also developed and lead client training focused on use and support of custom software systems.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
mSantos 04/08/08 03:42:21 PM EDT

Chris Pirillo has the same exact article on his website, posted a full two weeks before this article(http://www.lockergnome.com/web/2008/01/14/rich-internet-applications-has...). What gives, man?

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo – to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – is now accepting Hackathon proposals. Hackathon sponsorship benefits include general brand exposure and increasing engagement with the developer ecosystem. At Cloud Expo 2014 Silicon Valley, IBM held the Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held the DevOps Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of...
Grow your business with enterprise wearable apps using SAP Platforms and Google Glass. SAP and Google just launched the SAP and Google Glass Challenge, an opportunity for you to innovate and develop the best Enterprise Wearable App using SAP Platforms and Google Glass and gain valuable market exposure. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian McPhail, Senior Director of Business Development, ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, outlined the timeline of the SAP Google Glass Challenge and the opportunity for developers, start-ups, and companies of all sizes to engage with SAP today.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Liaison Technologies, a leading provider of data management and integration cloud services and solutions, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Liaison Technologies is a recognized market leader in providing cloud-enabled data integration and data management solutions to break down complex information barriers, enabling enterprises to make smarter decisions, faster.
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Every day we read jaw-dropping stats on the explosion of data. We allocate significant resources to harness and better understand it. We build businesses around it. But we’ve only just begun. For big payoffs in Big Data, CIOs are turning to cognitive computing. Cognitive computing’s ability to securely extract insights, understand natural language, and get smarter each time it’s used is the next, logical step for Big Data.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...