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Impact - A Blog by INM

Archive for '2008'

    INM now has a Twitter account.

    For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it’s a micro-blogging platform that allows users to broadcast 140 character posts (aka ‘tweets’).

    You can expect to read tweets about the conferences and events we’re attending, webinars we’re holding, white papers we’re writing, trends in the industries we’re following, as well as the technologies that have piqued our interest. (Yes, we’re busy people here at INM!)

    It’s not all about us though. If you’re on Twitter, please add us. We’d love to hear from you. Ask us questions. Send us links to articles. Share your knowledge. Give us feedback. We’re here and listening to you.

    Google's Plan for World Domination

    RIA runtime engines are all the rage and Google has now thrown its hat into the ring with the release of Native Client, an open-source technology for running x86 native code in web applications. This is already done today by Adobe Flash Player, MS SilverLight, Java and other less popular technologies on the market. In many cases, these alternate solutions offer more features and better performance than Native Client promises.

    All in all, Google wanted to take a stab at solving the problem of how to manage local resources on a computer without the limitations of ECMAscript in a web page or the web browser's sandbox.

    Read More »

    Is Usability Becoming a Commodity?

    In the past several weeks, there’s been a lot of buzz about measuring usability and user experience. A recent posting on the Site Point blog, provided suggestions about "5 Ways to Get Usability Testing on the Cheap". I appreciate that the author prefaces his post by saying that the proposed solutions "...might not be quite as good, but they won’t hurt your pocketbook nearly as much." It’s important to set up the expectation that just as you won’t be able to make a jaguar out of a Siamese kitten, these low cost alternatives will provide you with decent feedback, but they aren’t as robust as what traditional user testing experience provides.

    Products such as Silverback, UserTesting.com, Feedback Army, and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, among others, offer a range of services that span from text-based surveys and written questionnaires all the way to video reports of users talking their way through their interaction with your website and recording user interactions via facial reactions, screen clicks and other such navigational behaviors.

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    Lessons Learned from Europeana

    As a Product Manager for INM’s eLibrary solutions, the launch of the massive European eLibrary project, Europeana, last week certainly piqued my interest. After hearing about this project months ago, I was curious to see it go online and to gauge the reaction.

    The developers of the site launched with over two million documents, images, video and audio clips chronicling the continent's culture and history, from 27 participating countries. Initial estimates for site traffic were expected to reach up to 5 million hits per hour, but by 24 hours after the launch, the actual figures were over three times this volume, bringing the site crashing down.

    Read More »

    Will the Economy be the Tipping Point for Digital Publishing?

    An economic crisis, or really any type of crisis, is indeed bad. But sometimes, a crisis can foster new creativity, providing the opportunities for young, or marginal, ideas to grow and eventually prevail.

    In the 18th Century and the early 19th Century, there were heated debates in a number of US cities about which standard to adopt for public transportation. Should they stay with the standard, well-mastered technology of horse-pulled wagons? Would they invest in the more reliable and mastered steam engine technology? Or would they adopt the internal combustion engine, the new inefficient, yet very promising technology?

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    News from the Adobe Max Conference

    After the two big keynotes at the Adobe MAX North America conference this week, it’s time to summarize the "news" that our team has reported back from the show floor. It seems this year that the majority of the focus for Adobe was on the progression of its existing technologies, rather than on anything new and groundbreaking.

    Adobe’s "Thermo" technology that was announced last year at MAX was given a new name and was moved from a pre-release to an early beta. The new product name is Adobe Flash Catalyst. This technology is designed to better integrate the design and development process for rich Internet applications (RIAs) and allow designers to take on more of the user experience design than they could previously. MAX attendees were given an early release, with the promise of a public beta by early 2009.

    Adobe also released version 1.5 of Adobe AIR. This version supports encrypted local databases, support for Flash Player 10, and support for webkit and SquirrelFish for fast Javascript execution. In addition to the release, Adobe also shared some install numbers for AIR, announcing that it is on track to hit 100 million installs just one year after its release.

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    Thoughts on this World Usability Day

    On this World Usability Day, there are so many topics that I would like to discuss. However, I will concentrate my thoughts today on the timely topic of Enterprise Applications.

    Enterprise applications underwent a major revolution about ten years ago, on the brink of the year 2000. Home-grown software was massively replaced by ready-made, though highly configurable, enterprise resource planning tools (ERP's) such as SAP and PeopleSoft. As we’ve previously blogged about, ERP's are undergoing a major evolution these days by disaggregating into independent Lego blocks through service oriented architecture (SOA).

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    INM Developer Gaming for Charity

    This weekend, Francois Cournoyer, a long-time member of the INM team will be participating in a multiplayer gaming marathon and will be gaming online for 36 hours straight. The Multiplayer Marathon is an effort of the Justin.tv community and is designed to raise awareness and funds for Child’s Play Charity, which works to provide toys, games, books and cash for sick children in hospitals across the globe.

    The Marathon begins on Saturday, November 8, 2008 and will continue for 36 hours. Players will be playing a variety of different multiplayer games and will broadcast them live on 20 different channels at http://justin.tv.

    I would encourage you to donate to this worthy cause.

    Window Shopping Online: A New RIA from Amazon

    Amazon WindowShop interface

    While shopping online has yet to truly capture the feeling of strolling through the mall, the new beta eCommerce platform from Amazon comes close. Windowshop.com offers users the ability to visually browse through new movie titles, games, new books, best sellers, and more. The content is updated each Tuesday when new titles are added to the site.

    Users can navigate around using arrow keys and can zoom into a listing to view a video clip of a game or movie or hear a sound clip of a song. There are even audio reviews of new books. Windowshop.com is very pretty to look at, but since it exists separately from the main Amazon platform, I question its practicality as users cannot search for specific info. However, it is great for getting a weekly snapshot of what’s new. The platform is powered by the Amazon S3 platform that Troy blogged about last week.

    Violet Mir:ror Bridges Real and Virtual Worlds

    the Mir:ror product

    After the hugely successful Nabaztag, our friends at Violet have introduced Mir:ror. Simply stated, Mir:ror is an RFID reader. But in fact, it is really a pretty complete platform and a gateway that bridges the real and virtual worlds.

    Fostering customer loyalty is a key challenge for many brands these days. As our economy shifts from being product-based to becoming more experience-based, Mir:ror allows companies to provide clients with more than just a manufactured static good or a time-bounded service. With Mir:ror, the client’s experience can begin before and end well after his or her contact with the supplier, the goods or the services.

    Read More »

    Building RIAs in the Cloud

    One of the reasons that I joined the INM team this past September was to ensure the seamless operation of the Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) that we build for clients. Seeing products such as INM Reach and INM eLibrary in action, I couldn't help but think of the potential of building large-scale customized libraries of documents and other enterprise caliber RIAs.

    However, businesses that are considering these types of projects inside their enterprise can very quickly run into growing pains. The volume of content that accumulates over time can grow infinitely. It becomes very difficult for businesses to predict and allocate the required resources to setup and maintain an infrastructure to accommodate the growing volumes of content and users.

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    Great Example of a Mass Customization RIA Application

    More and more, rich Internet applications (RIAs) are being used as a way to customize mass production projects and give items a “personal flair”. A great example of this is the new customization module for the Flip Mino that was announced last week by our good friends at Pure Digital Technologies. This module allows buyers of the popular Flip Mino, a pocket-sized camcorder, to personalize the front cover of the camera with photos, logos, or graphic designs. Users can choose from thousands of designs that include celebrity photos, original artwork, and iconic brands, or they can upload their own graphics or photos. There is also an exclusive design engine – the Pattern Generator that buyers can use to whip a unique pattern if they want a truly custom design.

    Read More »

    Microsoft Releases Silverlight 2.0

    Earlier this week, Microsoft finally rolled out version 2.0 of Silverlight, its competitor to Adobe Flash. This version has been over a year in the making and was promised to be the “one” that made Silverlight a true contender with Flash Player.

    Version 2.0 supports:

    • Powerful built-in controls: DataGrid, ListBox, Slider, ScrollViewer, Calendar controls and more.
    • Deep zoom: For ultra high resolution imagery.
    • Advanced skinning and templating support: For easy customization of applications.
    • Cross-platform and cross-browser support: Support for Mac, Windows, and Linux in Firefox, Safari, and Windows Internet Explorer.
    • And many more....
    Read More »

    Big Day for Tech Announcements: Google Android Phone and Adobe CS4

    It’s a busy day for technology reporters today, with big announcements coming from both Adobe and Google. Today marks the official introduction of Creative Suite 4 (CS4) from Adobe. This new suite of software, tools and technologies is geared to ease the transition of content from print, to the web, to the interactive world. CS4 comes in four main editions:

    • Design Premium
    • Web Premium
    • Production Premium
    • Master Collection

    The full suite, packaged as the Master Collection, contains thirteen individual products, fourteen technologies, and seven hosted services. Together these elements are designed to streamline the designer/developer workflow, saving time, promoting integration and creating content that easily scales across media and devices. The preview this morning was impressive, particularly for the enhancements that allow export from InDesign directly to Flash, and for the content-aware image editing functions that were added to Photoshop. It’s worth checking out on Adobe TV.

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    Retailers Up eCommerce Spend: Focus on SaaS Options

    A recent Internet Retailer report includes some interesting information about how retailer are addressing their eCommerce needs in today’s leaner market. While 72 percent of retailers are planning to purchase new eCommerce applications or services this year, what they are spending their money on is changing. New investments are focused on technologies that are critical and will produce the most business.

    A big change is that web retailers are taking advantage of more affordable hosted software and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to update their e-commerce platforms. The survey finds that 29.3 percent of merchants are implementing SaaS applications in lieu of more costly licensed software options. The on-demand SaaS options provide merchants with two key advantages, they are quick to implement and roll-out and they often provide instant access to new features.

    It looks like SaaS is making inroads across many markets these days.

    Browser War Heats Up with Chrome

    Last week, Google added some heat to the web browser market when it introduced its newest offering, Google Chrome, a web browser designed to better support rich Internet applications (RIAs). In just one week, this browser jumped in popularity to claim over 4 percent of the market share. What’s interesting when you look at these numbers is where the market share is coming from. Firefox dropped in popularity from 72.9 percent down to 67.5 percent and Opera too dropped slightly from 3.51 percent to 3.47 percent. At the same time, Internet Explorer gained ground, moving from 18.18 percent to 20.08 percent.

    What does this all mean? If Chrome continues to pick up market share, then this means another new browser for web developers to add to their test platforms. So far, Chrome is a Windows-only offering and it still lacks a number of the key features that advanced users crave, such as add-ons and extensions. However, Google has indicated that both of these items will be resolved quite quickly.

    RIAs in the Enterprise

    Over the past few weeks, there have been some interesting developments that support our predictions that RIAs will become a trend in the enterprise over the coming year. The first move came from ReadWriteWeb (RWW), a popular and widely respected technology blog. Recently, RWW launched its new Enterprise Channel. While this channel is not purely about rich Internet applications (RIAs), its broad Enterprise 2.0 focus will no doubt touch on them. In fact in the channel’s first post, RWW does a great job of presenting the perfect storm that’s hitting enterprises and causing the push toward RIA-driven interfaces.

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    New White Paper Available: Creating Your Corporate eLibrary

    In an effort to help corporate librarians build compelling business cases for their electronic library projects, INM has published a new whitepaper. This free white paper, entitled Creating Your Corporate eLibrary, looks at the benefits of creating an eLibrary and walks librarians through the steps for analyzing their needs, evaluating potential solutions, choosing technology, and building a compelling business case.

    Download our Creating Your Corporate eLibrary whitepaper

    This white paper is also supported by a webinar on the Best Practices for Creating your Online eLibrary. 

    Silverlight Makes Headway

    Microsoft’s Silverlight technology is making waves this month with two very high profile events. First, Silverlight was the technology of choice for NBC’s streaming Olympic video coverage on NBCOlympics.com. The site racked up 70 million page views on Friday August 8th, and 4.8 million people watched 3.1 million video streams on Saturday. These are impressive numbers for Silverlight’s big debut. However, there were a number of critics that commented on the frustrating delays for online coverage, as well as the lack of full screen support and the size of the windows.

    Silverlight is also the official software and HD web content provider for this week’s Democratic National Convention. Although many networks are offering streaming video from the convention, the official site is the only one showing HD video content. The HD is quite impressive, and was even dubbed as "awesome" by the Washington Post.

    Even with these two high-profile events, I’m not sure it will allow Microsoft to catch up to the massive install base Adobe Flash Player already has, but it certainly brings Silverlight closer to being a true contender.

    The Year to Come – Looking Forward

    In my last post, I took a moment to look back over the past year to see what changed. After looking back, it’s time now to look forward and predict what will happen over the year to come.

    What’s in store over the next 12 months? Well, I see a number of big changes brewing on a few different fronts:

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    One Year Later – Looking Back over the Last 12 Months

    In preparing for the one year anniversary of Impact, I decided to write two posts – this one, which looks back over what’s happened in the past year, and a second post which will go up tomorrow that will look forward to what we can expect in the coming twelve months.

    Since July 2007, there have been a number of big changes in our space. Here are my thoughts and comments on a few of the key ones:

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    Happy Anniversary Impact

    It seems hard to believe, but it was one year ago today that we put up our first post and officially launched Impact. In the past year, we’ve added 55 posts on a number of different subjects. Some of our most popular ones include:

    I hope you’ve found the blog interesting and helpful and that you’ve subscribed to either our RSS Feed or our Email Notifications to stay up-to-date on our latest posts. We welcome comments below or you can send feedback by email to Andrea@INM.com.

    For the next year, we plan to expand our team of bloggers to introduce you to more members of the INM team and to add in a little more news to our mix. Stay tuned.

    The Changing Face of BI

    In the previous article of this series, we looked at how changes in the enterprise are creating a need for BI. In this final article of the series, we will look how BI has changed to meet the needs of the new market it addresses, from the challenges it creates to the evolution of the technology.

    BI in its current form is a relatively new market that comes with a number of challenges, some which are technical and others which are less so. Some challenges include:

    • Organizing a company’s data into a data warehouse
    • Establishing and enforcing standards for the new BI solution
    • Managing security and compliance
    • Traning staff on the operation of new sytems
    • Managing the cultural shift in an organization at all levels (executive, management, and staff)
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    The Enterprise Shift and the Role of BI

    In the first article of this series, we defined Business Intelligence (BI) and looked a bit at its history and current day role. In this instalment, we are going to look at the changes in the enterprise and how BI’s role within the organization has changed.

    Let’s start with a look at how management used to function, years ago, management was primarily based on the pyramid style, with a few white collar workers leading a greater number of subordinates. The power within an organization sat with the few at the top of the pyramid, where managers made decisions and told employers what to do as a result of privileged data that they had access to.

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    What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

    There’s been quite a bit of news lately on Business Intelligence (BI) and its changing role in the enterprise. All of which has inspired me to write an article series on the topic. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be looking deeper into BI, covering what it is, its role in the shifting enterprise, and how new tools and technologies on the market are changing its face.

    Let’s start with an introduction and definition of what we mean by Business Intelligence. According to Wikipedia, Business Intelligence is defined as “the technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information for the purpose of supporting better business decision making.”

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    Adobe Improves SEO with Special Version of Flash Player

    Adobe announced today that it has made a special version of Flash Player available to Google and Yahoo that drastically improves search engine indexing of the Flash file format (SWF). This new version will uncover information that search engines could not previously access, providing more relevant search rankings for all of the rich Internet applications (RIAs) that leverage the Adobe Flash Player.

    This announcement means that organizations that have previously spent significant time and money to build a work-around solution to SEO-enable their RIAs no longer have to take any special steps to do so. Application developers and content producers can simply create their content in SWF and the search engines can read the attributes directly.

    Search engine optimization has been a major hurdle for many retailers in moving toward an RIA-driven site. This announcement makes it that much easier.

    Analytics and RIAs – Which Ones Matter?

    Tracking meaningful performance indicators for your rich Internet application (RIA) is a hotly debated subject. Since RIAs break the traditional page model, the common values of page views and page visits are no longer relevant. But then the question arises – What is it that you should measure? Well, the key is to look at the objective of your application and to break down what numbers really mean something to its success. This recent short article from Robert Hoekman, Jr. an interaction designer, brings up some good points about metrics.

    With these thoughts in mind, look for an analytics package that will help you track the figures that matter. There are a number of solutions on the market, but many of the seasoned RIA experts point to Omniture and Core Metrics as the two best options for tracking RIA metrics. Omniture is offering a free webinar titled "How to Build, Measure, and Profit using RIA on Your Site" that may be helpful for defining your key performance metrics.

    Over at Inside RIA, Andre Charland has kicked off a discussion about metrics for your RIAs. I’d encourage you to join in and voice your opinion.

    Retailers Embrace RIAs

    It looks like retailers are starting to see the true potential of rich Internet applications (RIAs). During last week’s ACCM conference in Orlando, I attended an interesting session about “Getting the best ROI from Rich Media”. The session looked at some of the key trends in retail and the predictions that industry analysts are making about the rise of rich content on eCommerce sites. Many of the stats presented focused on the number of retailers adding alternate images, video, and zoom features to their pages. However, one surprising figure that was mentioned was that 69% of the top 100 retailers are planning to add RIAs to their site in the coming year (taken from the Forrester State of Online Retail 2008 report). This includes technology such as product selectors, configurators, wardrobe tools, and more. This is a huge increase over last year. It seems that the early results from retailers that made the jump, combined with consumer reaction have caused retailers to step up to the plate.

    If you are interested in learning more about Rich eCommerce, check out our recorded webinar entitled "An Introduction to Rich eCommerce".

    The State of The RIA Nation

    I figured I'd post a quick summary on the "state of the nation" in regards to RIAs since it has been a very active couple of months.

    Kevin Whinnery has an interesting blog titled Which RIA Tools Give Us the Best Bang for Your Buck?. Interesting because I agree with his analysis: there is no best RIA tool out there, only trade-offs.

    As I had mentioned in Spry 1.7 is Coming Soon AJAX and Flex are now considered complementary: the former specializes in moderately rich interfaces, but may lead to expensive Write Once, Debug Everywhere projects, whereas the latter allows for more expressive interfaces at the cost of surrendering part of your [software's] freedom to private interests.

    Read More »

    Webinar: Creating your Corporate eLibrary

    After our popular "Best Practices for Building an Online eLibrary" webinar, we had many inquiries about how specific elements of the content applied in a corporate library environment. As such, we are offering a new webinar targeted specifically toward corporate librarians entitled "Creating Your Corporate eLibrary".

    This introductory session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 1 PM Eastern Time, and registration is free.

    Watch this webinar's recording now. 

    Best Practices in Software Development Are Not

    In a rather provocative talk at Project World 2008 last week, IBM's Practice Leader, Scott Ambler, shared a secret: He admits that accepted best practices in software development are no longer best practices.

    “Writing a detailed requirement spec up-front is a worst practice, despite being considered a best practice for the longest time,” said Ambler. “When you do this, you are building to specs, as opposed to building to what people actually need.”
     

    Everything in this industry is now pointing to the same direction. As such, developers must:

    • establish a long-term vision but design for the short term
    • release projects in small iterations
    • make project components as independent as possible from each other
    • and, first and foremost, connect every feature to a stakeholder's needs

    First SaaS, now PaaS

    It was bound to happen. First we saw Software as a Service (SaaS), now we have Platforms as a Service (PaaS). SaaS’s refer to on-tap applications that are available on an as-needed basis. In the early days, many of these services were faceless and designed to be hidden behind other applications. These days, there is an increasing number of SaaS’s that have an embeddable user interface, with some even offering a configurability for users (through a preferences button, for example) or programmers (through parameters included in the initialization call, for example).

    Read More »

    Webinar: Understanding Adobe AIR

    Since the launch of Adobe AIR nearly a month ago, we’ve had a number of questions about how this new technology can be used for building stronger relationships with clients. In order to help organizations better understand Adobe AIR and how it can be used, we are offering a free webinar entitled, Understanding the Potential of Adobe Integrated Runtime (Adobe AIR). Join us on Wednesday, April 2nd or April 9th at 11:00 am Eastern for this online session.

    This introductory session is unique, as it is not designed for programmers. Instead, it is geared to educate communications professionals on the impact that Adobe AIR can have on their customer relationships. Session content includes:

    • An introduction to rich Internet applications (RIAs) and the role of Adobe AIR
    • The opportunities introduced with Adobe AIR
    • Key benefits and examples
    • Factors to consider
    • Information on how to move forward with an Adobe AIR project

    View the webinar on YouTube now.

    Building for the Future

    Last week when I was watching a home renovation show, Holmes on Homes , I got to thinking. The host was walking through a seemingly sound, esthetically-pleasing, renovation that appeared to have one small flaw. As his crew started to peel back the layers of this renovation, it became apparent that deeper in the original construction there were several more flaws, some of them major. In the end, they needed to destroy 80-90% of what was completed to improve the 10-20% that was showing. As I sat there watching this, it occurred to me that this analogy is often true with software development projects. Many are hard-coded and written in a haphazard way, creating a delicate structure with a pretty veneer. Everything looks great on the surface and works fine today, but when a little something needs to be added, you may be in for a big surprise. When designing an application, it's important that the structure is sound enough to support today’s needs and is designed in a modular way so that it supports the new needs that may arise tomorrow. But how do you ensure this? First, it is important to work with right partner and the right technology. Look for a software partner that has a qualified team and previous examples of successful deployments. Then make sure your partner knows your business case, including your vision, key processes, key audiences and more. Working with your development partner, you can design a solution that leverages best-of-breed components that are loosely-coupled to work together. This approach allows you to easily add and remove components and to update technologies as newer ones evolve and become new industry standards. Whether you are building software or homes, the principles are the same, start with a solid plan, use quality materials, choose skilled builders, and keep your plans open for future needs, you never know how things will change.

    iPhone Roadmap – What’s missing?

    Last week, Apple unveiled its roadmap for the iPhone. The plans announced mainly fall into two categories, supporting iPhone in the enterprise, and opening up the iPhone’s software development kit (SDK) to third-party developers.

    For enterprises, Apple is licensing the Microsoft ActiveSync technology to add support for Microsoft Exchange within its current iPhone applications. At the same time, they have also announced that they are allowing third-party developers to license their native SDK for the creation of iPhone applications.

    Read More »

    Changing the Business Case for Content

    First, Harper Collins came out with an announcement that it would offer free electronic editions of some titles online. Then author Suze Orman’s announced on Oprah that she would be offering a limited number of free copies of her latest title on the Oprah website. Now Yale University Press is the next publisher to get on board with free electronic titles.

    Why the sudden push toward giving away content? One reason may be tied to the decline that’s happening with traditional advertising models. Businesses are shifting advertising away from radio, newspaper, magazine, and even TV ads and are moving funds into new models of promotion, including using ad dollars to cover the cost of giving away some products to drive up interest in others.

    Author Chris Anderson, famous for his book "The Long Tail", expands upon this new trend in his upcoming book, which he plans to make available for free (or as free as his publisher will allow). Check out the free 6,000 word preview of his book "Free: Why $0.00 is the Future of Business" in this month's Wired Magazine.

    The Pendulum Swings Back

    Back in September, I wrote about an interesting article in Dr. Dobb’s Journal about how the pendulum is swinging back toward the delivery of desktop-like experiences. With Adobe’s official announcement of its new Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) yesterday, the pendulum has picked up even more momentum. AIR allows application designers to think beyond the browser to cost-effectively add desktop support into their clients’ web interactions and deliver RIAs in a partially connected environment.

    Even though AIR is just out, there are already a number of early deployments that range from consumer-facing media players, games, personal shopping assistants and product configurators, through to business-oriented data-entry and dashboard tools. Big name brands like eBay, Nickelodeon, and NASDAQ are already delivering applications that leverage AIR.

    The biggest hurdle toward adoption is helping those responsible for client communications understand the potential of AIR and how to leverage it within the scope of client interactions.

    Spry 1.7 is Coming Soon

    Would it be wrong to say that just a few years ago when rich internet applications (RIAs) were starting to make serious strides on the market, Adobe was confronted with a dilemma: they would either need to promote Flex as an alternative to AJAX solutions, which would polarize the market, or to just embrace (and potentially lead) the AJAX market.

    Adobe settled on the latter, and brought forth Spry, a framework for AJAX. This was a good move, as it seems clear today that Flex and AJAX have a symbiotic relationship. Google (author of the famous Google Web Toolkit for AJAX), Yahoo (author of the equally famous Yahoo! User Interface Library toolkit), and many other mainstream players consistently use AJAX and other tools, such as Flex, in their projects.

    Read More »

    Adobe Rolls Out Director 11

    This morning, at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, CA, Adobe announced Director 11. For those familiar with Director, this won’t come as much of a surprise, as this release has been highly anticipated for awhile now. What is interesting about the announcement is where it took place, and how Adobe is repackaging Director. While Director has been strong for the creation of multimedia applications, educational software and casual games for years, it’s now being squarely pegged as the solution for interactive games and eLearning. This may be due to the fact that Adobe has discontinued Authorware, its previous gem in the eLearning sector, and that Flash is lacking the Xtras and extensibility that developers need.

    Read More »

    Why AOL Acquired Yourminis

    In the very noisy announcement of Microsoft's bid to acquire Yahoo last week, very little attention was devoted to AOL's acquisition of Goowy, the company behind Yourminis. Granted, this acquisition was not of a comparable scale, but it was still a significant step for AOL in building stronger relations between its users and advertisers.

    Yourminis is a fully customizable start page (a.k.a. personal portal) similar to iGoogle that users can personalize with any number of widgets including weather forecasts, e-mail, instant messaging, games and more. Widgets can live on a web page inside a web browser, or can stand-alone on the desktop. Unlike Google's Desktop Gadgets and Yahoo's Widgets, Yourminis desktop widgets use Adobe AIR and thus don't require the installation of a large local application.

    Read More »

    RIAs and Business Intelligence

    Back in November, I posted about the trend of leveraging rich Internet applications (RIAs) for presenting key data and information for decision-makers and task-oriented workers. This trend seems to be picking up momentum quickly as there has been a swell of activity from companies like SAP and BEA around RIAs and business intelligence.

    Another major player threw its ring in the RIA business intelligence ring today, with Information Builders’ announcement of its new offering. Information Builders provides software and support to more than 12,000 customers, including many Fortune 100 companies and US federal government agencies. Its new offering, WebFOCUS FLEX Enable, is an application engine that allows developers and analysts to create custom interactive and animated dashboards. What’s interesting about this offering is the self-service model that it provides. Unlike some of the finished solutions announced, this is an application engine that allows developers to build what they need.

    This trend toward RIA-based business intelligence solutions is one I am certain we will see more and more of in the coming months.

    Inside RIA: A New RIA Community Site

    Last week a new rich internet application website launched. The site, called Inside RIA, is an online community developed by O’Reilly, and sponsored by Adobe. Unlike many of the RIA-focused sites that include short postings and news, this one seems to offer more original content in the form of blog postings by industry experts, and feature articles from community members.

    The site is broken down into three main categories: Design, Development and Standards. Plans are to grow the site in the coming months to include articles, news, events, learning resources, and opinion pieces. One of the first features articles, "What is RIA", asks site experts and community members to explain what RIA means to them.

    If you are following the trends in RIA this is one site you'll want to bookmark.

    A Few RIAs that Caught My Eye

    Dashboard view of Quicken Application

    Over the past week or so I’ve seen a few interesting rich internet applications (RIAs) land in my inbox that deserve some attention. These are not necessarily best in breed, but are good, recent examples of how RIAs can really improve a user’s interaction with an application.

    First is the new online version of Quicken. This application in its original form was a good solid performer but was screaming for some rich graphics and enhanced interactivity, and Intuit delivered. The new version of Quicken includes a dashboard-like view with key data that allows users to easily and quickly drill down to see details. The info is delivered in a very visual and clear way, making it much easier for users to visualize their accounts. There are also a number of mobile improvements to help users access and update their info from afar.  

    Read More »

    Is 2008 the Year of RIA Hardware?

    Last year, one of the hot topics amongst the technology media was the growth in interest, adoption, and announcements around Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). It seemed like every week there was a new story about development tools, technology announcements, beta launches and more.

    Now, just a few days into 2008, the buzz seems to be expanding to include hardware. With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happening this week and Macworld slated for next week, the rumors are flying. Predictions range from a new breed of device that combines an OLED screen with enough flash memory, CPU power and a wireless connection to deliver a rich web experience at a fraction of the cost of a full desktop, to Apple and Adobe teaming up on a new hybrid iPod Touch-like device for RIAs.

    Intriguing predictions, but at this point they’re just rumors. It will be interesting to track the progress in the coming months to see if RIA hardware does start to make waves.

    PDF Becomes More “Standard”

    Last month, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved the PDF as an international document format standard. The format has been widely adopted for years, but this move reinforces the fact that PDF has become the choice for documents where it's necessary to preserve content accuracy and fidelity.

    What this means for businesses is that the "proprietary" element is removed from the format, ensuring that it is now a safe bet for organizations to count on for their crucial documents and business process needs.