The Browser-less Browser War

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Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) allows users to run web applications natively on a desktop without having to launch them in an open browser session. This will begin to blur the lines between a PC "fat client" experience and a web browser experience.  One Adobe AIR application for Ebay allows bidders the ability to monitor their auctions without going to the website by having their bid status made available in a Window desktop tray application. There are several other examples from the New York Times, Yahoo and SalesForce.com. I see this move toward Rich Internet Applications (RIA) as significant because of its impact on the SaaS market. One of the biggest drawbacks with hosted office applications for example is the issue of being disconnected and not being able to access user files. Future development in RIA will include the ability to load a small encrypted database on the client side, thereby retaining portions of the user state machine.  The battle has already started at the mobile device level with Microsoft squaring off with Apple. Microsoft recently announced they will support Flash Lite for Windows Mobile while Apple has rejected it for the iPhone "due to performance issues." The truth is Adobe Flash Lite is already on over 450 million flash-equipped mobile handsets today and expected to grow to over 1 billion by 2010. Another major inflection point will be the post-Ajax development world when we see Adobe's new Flex and Microsoft Silverlight 2.0 come in to the picture. The benefit of Flex includes cross-platform, cross-browser interoperability and when combined with creating offline applications utilizing AIR, you have what will become the next browser war in the making - only without the browsers!  I will be posting more regarding Flex, but if you want to see what it can do, go to buzzword.com and create a simple account. You'll think you are interacting with a Mac application when you are really running this over the Internet. The user experience is amazing. Now we just need to add presence, video, click-to-call and collaboration tools in an RIA "widget" thereby increasing the capabilities of this technology.