Monday, June 11, 2007

Gears Flash In the Silverlight of the AIR

I've been reading along with the rest of the world, about all kinds of "new" technology that is being billed as "The Next Big Thing." No, not Web 2.0 applications. Not handheld or mobile applications. Not even iPhone applications.

According to Google, Microsoft and Adobe - the Next Big Thing is - desktop applications.

No, really. Desktop applications.


If you're as old as dirt like I am, you remember these things called "mainframes" that would run "programs" that the user could "interact" with via "dumb" terminals. You know, green screen and yellow screen applications. This provided the IT guys with total control over the data so there would be a minimum of SUD (Stupid User Detected). And all was well in the land.

Until the next Next Big Thing: personal computing. Now the everyday slaves could free themselves of the IT taskmasters and they could store their own documents on their own hard drives - completely separate from IT control. They used "desktop" applications rather than shared application (that only ran on the server) - and thus they were the masters of their own destiny.

Until the next Next Big Thing: the Internet. The pendulum swung back the other way: big-ass servers and data that was saved "virtually" - so the user wouldn't have to worry about silly things like back-ups, viruses, etc. and they could share or collaborate with a single click.

And that brings us back to the new Next Big Thing: desktop applications. While we all love web applications (, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, etc.) - there's only one thing wrong: it's that pesky "having to be connected" thing.

So, although nothing has actually shipped from any of these vendors - they all have really, really spiffy names for their new technologies:

Silverlight by Microsoft - This gem is said to be a "Flash killer" and basically it looking to dethrone Flash like C# tried to rip off Java. It's made for interactive web applications - but will require a plug-in (just like Flash). It's expected sometime in the summer (of 2007 - or at least it will be the summer of 2007 when they announce it will be delayed to mid-2008).

Gears by Google - Allows you to run web-based applications (in a browser) while you're not connected to the Internet. The theory here is that you will have an open-source database (SQLite) on your machine and the web application will run connected to this database and will "silently" synchronize with the "main" back end database when you're connected. This technology will require that developers enhance (and in some cases re-tool) their existing web applications to take advantage of Gears. ETA: Later in 2007.

Flash and AIR (formerly "Apollo") by Adobe - Flash, we all get. AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime - nee, "Apollo") is like Gears in the sense that you can write offline applications with a local SQL database (also SQLite) - but you don't have to be limited to using a browser. You will have your own interface space (like Flex, OpenLazlo or Flash) and can connect the to web (or not) and store data locally for offline access (or not). AIR was just released in BETA today.

Well, there you have it - the Next Big Thing - desktop applications that let you work, GASP!, without being connected to the almighty Internet! Wow. Great idea... again.

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