Seeking to ride the Ajax wave, Adobe Systems is to announce that it wants to make friends, rather than compete with, the increasingly popular grassroots rich internet client framework.
The backdrop is that there are several competing visions to add some of the richness that web browser clients have long lacked. With traditional browser thin clients, you had to sacrifice much of the local functionality and graphic richness long provided by classic client/server apps.
Just as nature abhors a vacuum, several vendors have cast their visions for beefing up lowly web clients. Microsoft’s new Windows Presentation Foundation is its bid to build smart web clients using extensions of the .NET Framework.
Macromedia’s (now Adobe’s) strategy has been to morph the ubiquitous Flash plug-in from web page animator to full rich web client environment, courtesy of its emerging Flex framework. And then on the sidelines is Laszlo, a startup aligned closely with IBM, which is designing its own expansion of Flash into a full framework.
However, almost exactly a year ago, a consultant with the colorful name Jesse James Garrett identified what many web developers already knew: most of the enabling technology to provide a rich web client was already there.
Ajax has taken off, not only because the technologies are already there, but because no vendor had a chokehold on them. Not wanting to miss the wave, Microsoft last autumn announced project Atlas to support Ajax, while, earlier this year, IBM and others announced an open source project to fill Ajax’ gaps.
Now it’s Adobe’s turn to make nice with what seems to be a grassroots movement. Claiming Ajax is too dependent on dated browser technology, some of which is five or more years old, it is offering links so Ajax programs can call various Flex features to beef up graphics and data access.
In actuality, the Flash player complements core Ajax technologies because it provides the rich media capability that Ajax itself lacks. With these moves, Adobe is sort of saying, yes, let’s make Flash Ajax’s newest component.
As for data access, that requires more sophisticated engineering to tie together the data persistence models on the back end (such as Hibernate), with one that could work on an intermittently connected web client.
For instance, if you perform a web query that retrieves 100,000 rows from a database, you probably wouldn’t want to download all of them at once. Therefore, it will be a few more months before Adobe has the data bridge ready.
Adobe is making positive noises about joining IBM and others in the Open Ajax project. Nonetheless, echoing Microsoft, Adobe maintains that even with more robust Ajax, there will still be a role for richer web clients inside the enterprise.