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Impact - A Blog by INM

Archive for 'October 2007'

    Clearing the Air about Offline Applications

    Last week, Mozilla announced a project called Prism, a newly packaged version of its Webrunner technology from a couple of years ago. Prism lets users split web applications out of their browser and run them directly on their desktop.

    What’s interesting about this announcement is how many industry blogs and media covered it as a solution for offline apps, comparing it to other recently announced solutions like AIR and Silverlight. With all this clouding of messaging, I wanted to take a moment to clarify a few points about offline applications.

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    Google Analytics Now Tracks Rich Content

    The difficult task of generating some meaningful and accurate numbers to justify your investments in rich content on your site has just gotten easier. Google Analytics, a popular website analysis tool amongst small to mid-sized businesses, has just been updated to now track user engagements that include elements common with Web 2.0 services, including Javascript, Ajax and Flash applications, widgets and gadgets, and downloadable pages.

    This not only allows companies to better track their website numbers as a whole, it also allows them to offer advertisers alternate numbers to page views for gauging the success of an ad. New figures such as time spent on a page or the length of time an ad is visible may become more valuable to advertisers in the future.

    eCommerce SaaS for AIR Developers

    There is a definite trend toward offering Software as a Service (SaaS). In recent weeks, we’ve seen Microsoft, Adobe, and even SAP make announcements or speak publicly about how SaaS is a fundamental part of their business strategies. Another more specialized announcement in this arena was the unveiling of eCommerce Framework by AIRApps.net.

    AIRApps.net is offering Adobe AIR developers an alternative way to license and sell their applications. By providing an injectable plug-in that developers can add to their applications during development, AIRApps.net is providing developers a hassle-free way to process transactions and collect licensing revenue without having to set-up their own payment processing arrangements - which can be time consuming and costly.

    Bye-bye Advertising, Hello Experience Building

    Years ago working in marketing meant that you needed a strong sense of creativity, an ability to define a great communications strategy and the skills to build value for a brand. Today, you may need to add experience design to the mix. The latest trend for marketers is in creating “branded experiences”. While the concept is not new (it’s been discussed loosely since 2004), the reality is that these experiences are becoming more and more prevalent, mainly in the area of rich internet applications (RIAs). An article in last weekend’s New York Times explains how companies like Nike, General Motors, and Proctor and Gamble are pulling back on traditional ad spending and opting instead for creating deeper relationships with their clients through branded services and communities.

    What does this mean for marketers? It means that they will now need to have a better sense of building applications and communities that truly engage users and integrate with their lives, getting them hooked and keeping them that way. Building an “experience” that is impressive and immersive enough to keep a user engaged over time takes a different skill-set than building a 30-second ad. It looks like marketers and software developers will be getting a little closer in the future.

    MapQuest's Vulnerability: Richer Internet Application Urgently Needed

    MapQuest was the first meaningful online application that I ever saw. I remember very clearly my ah-ha! moment. It was in 1996.

    I found MapQuest meaningful because it was rich. As rich as it could get then. It provided information that one could fathom in a glance, in a time where most websites insisted on providing long scrolling texts vastly inspired by the computer terminal mentality.

    In the years to follow, MapQuest enjoyed the undisputed status of being "the mapping standard" on the Internet, despite vigorous attacks from Microsoft, Yahoo! and many others.


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    Adobe Buzzword: It's the Mac vs MS-DOS Debate All Over Again

    In RIA-zation of Office Tools, I suggested that we (the people) were ready for a new breed of online Office tools based on RIA principles:

    • Instant engagement: no setup required, get started right away
    • Rich and expressive interfaces: get productive quickly and stay focused on your work, not the tool
    • Access files from anywhere regardless of equipment, operating system or context
    • Peace of mind for all things related to backups, viruses or security

    There are a few contenders in the market including Google Docs, Zoho Writer, Writeboard, Thinkfree and many others. Microsoft recently announced an online extension to MS Word, but it does not qualify as an RIA because it nonetheless requires the installation of MS Word on the client side.


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    Adobe MAX: A Synopsis

    After returning home from Adobe MAX and taking a day to digest the barrage of information presented at the show, it’s time to sit back and really extract the key points.

    In my opinion, the most important element of the show was how prevalent RIAs have become. Nearly every session at the show touched on building rich user experiences. The new twist this year was around AIR and showcasing applications that work seamlessly online and offline. This again is further proof of the pendulum swinging back to the desktop.

    Another key trend at the show was mobile. It’s clear from the number of examples and the content that was presented that mobile has hit the radar as the next big thing and is something that will grow and evolve in the coming months.

    Adobe also joined industry leaders like Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo in announcing its new realm of services. These offerings, although some are very early in the development cycle, are shaping up to be much more interactive, software as a service (SaaS) than some of the competition.

    Finally, Adobe previewed some interesting tools to help developers and designers alike embrace these new trends. The scope of which spanned from Director 11 through to Thermo.

    Lots About AIR in the Windy City

    We’ve written lately about the "swing back to the desktop" and this trend was quite evident with the kick-off of the Adobe MAX conference here in Chicago. About one-third of the opening keynote was dedicated to the new AIR offering, with a number of strong examples from key industry players. Amongst the AIR demos, were some polished offerings from AOL (an application that allows you to access the top 100 music videos from your desktop), Disney Theme Parks (an application that allows travel agents to build custom info packs for their clients), and SAP (an application that provides an offline "briefing book" a type of "dashboard" for key business metrics). Even MTV is getting in the game by hosting the "MTV Adobe® AIR™ Challenge".

    With these heavy hitters jumping on-board, things look promising for AIR.