So while I’ve heard a lot about the next gen development languages, I haven’t really seen any in action. Here is my brief comparison with examples of each.

MS Silverlight

Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in and Microsoft’s attempt at a “Flash-killer.” You code in .NET, VB, C#, IronPython or IronRuby. Though (from what I can understand), regardless of what you write in, it get’s compiled into C# that gets run in the browser.

Here is Microsofts demo site Tafiti. Pretty sweet, really a good example of a next-gen RIA. Allows you to visually manipulate and store different types of search results: Webpages, RSS, Images, News etc… I’m impressed.

Tafiti

silverlight2

Pro’s: Since this is a client-side technology, doesn’t matter what OS/Server you are running on (except Linux see Moonlight), also apparently works well cross-browser. Low adoption rates for Silverlight plugin.

Con’s: Currently plugin is heavy (around 1.5MB), still lacking some features – beta, Visual Studio.


Adobe Flex

Flash on steroids. “Like Flash, Flex creates SWF files that are rendered by Flash Player. However, Flex is primarily a developer’s tool… Flex is geared towards programmers, rather than designers. The primary Flex programming language, ActionScript 3, is object-oriented…” (Adobe – Flex 3)

Here are a couple demo sites: Dashboard – Since I’m an analytics freak, I’m really impressed by the level of detail and high-presentation value this offers. Try clicking around…

flex

Bowling Shirts – I see great potential in this type of app for product customization, which along with Social Shopping, are the emerging trends in Ecommerce.
Adobe Kuler – cool and fun!

Pros – If you are coming from a Flash/Actionscript background, starting to develop Flex apps should be straightforward. Apparently FlexBuilder (Eclipse-based IDE), is awesome. Flash players are ubiquitous.
Cons -FlexBuilder is expensive.

Comparison Silverlight v Flex

At first glance between the examples I saw, it seemed like the one MS Silverlight app was way more powerful then what I saw out of Flex. That being said, all the other Silverlight apps I viewed were gimmicky and had nothing to differentiate them from a Flash app. Generally, it seems like developers prefer MS and designers prefer Adobe. These next gen RIA’s have both strong presentation and development requirements and it will be interesting to see how these companies will make their products usable by both user groups.

Adobe AIR

AIR “is a cross-operating system runtime that allows web developers to leverage their existing web development skills (such as Flash, Flex, HTML and JavaScript) to build and deploy web applications and content to the desktop.” (onAir)

AIR is fundamentally different from Silverlight and Flex above since you are downloading apps to your desktop and running them locally. The idea is that AIR bridges the desktop and web to get the best of both worlds. Flex, AJAX, HTML, Javascript could all be incorporated into an AIR app.

I downloaded the desktop app from: Kuler and FineTune Desktop and wasn’t really impressed. There is a version of Google Analytics for AIR which got me real excited, but didn’t work for latest version of AIR beta 3.

Pros: Seems like the potential is there to do some really interesting stuff with caching local data (SQLite db included), Visualization of data, using docs from the local filesystem.

Cons: The examples I previewed aren’t great. And with Google Gears allowing offline caching from web based apps, whats the point of AIR?

Other resources used:

http://shoutat.blogspot.com/2007/08/microsoft-silverlight-vs.html
http://blog.topholt.com/2007/12/05/ria-wars-silverlight-vs-flex/
http://dotnetslackers.com/articles/silverlight/IntroductionToSilverlight.aspx

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