Posts Tagged ‘Rich Internet Applications’

Does HTML5 mean the end of Silverlight: Yes

March 31, 2011

If you’re like me, you might have a dream that surfers will soon not have to rely on plug-ins to enjoy browsing the web. For fellow dreamers, the forthcoming and latest round of browser wars might lead to a better web experience rather than yet another plug-in based nightmare.

Microsoft has recently had to grin and bear the pain, while its dominant Explorer browser has seen its market share attacked by a series of platforms, including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari – and most notably – Google Chrome. With market share now hovering at round 60% (see further reading, below), it’s almost as if the top guys at Redmond have suggested that enough is enough.

The result is a return of the browser wars, with Microsoft set to preview the final beta of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) in September. Chrome is clean, simple and fast – and expectations will be that IE9 provides a much quicker browsing experience.

Initial signs look good. Graphics performance is enhanced and hardware is accelerated. But the real story is the heavy use of HTML5, showing that researchers in Redmond also feel the next generation mark-up language is the best way forward for development.

“The future of the web is HTML5,” suggested Dean Hachamovitch, the general manager for Internet Explorer in a blog post earlier this year (see further reading). With Apple and Google also throwing their weight behind HTML5, much debate has rightly centred on the tricky situation facing Adobe’s video plug-in Flash.

But Microsoft’s support for HTML5 potentially creates another set of circumstances and another high profile conflict. This conflict surrounds Silverlight, a web framework that integrates multimedia and graphical elements in a single environment.

More intriguingly, it is Microsoft’s own framework – and, since April 2007, it has formed the backbone of the provider’s presentation framework. So, where does Microsoft’s support for HTML5 leave Silverlight? That, for web developers, is the key question.

Online publication The Register recently referred to the clash as “The Silverlight Paradox”, suggesting that a high quality and HTML5-ready IE9 will surely make many of the features of Silverlight and Flash redundant (see further reading).

Such a paradox, however, is fraught with complications. IE9 might look like it provides new fuel for Microsoft’s browser battle, but the true level of optimisation will not be clear until web developers get their hands on beta.

As The Register article suggests, legacy requirements mean the use of plug-ins will persist for many years – even if IE9 delivers everything it promises. But the move towards HTML5 shows that the captive strength of plug-ins is waning and businesses must develop web platforms with capability across all levels, from the desktop through to the mobile. The new web experience is emerging.

Further reading:

Apple vs Adobe: Round two could herald the knockout blow

October 18, 2010

Seconds out, round one! Once the best of friends, technology giants Apple and Adobe have more recently been involved in a fistfight that would do the heavyweight boxing division proud.

 In the red corner, Apple – an experienced but innovative slugger that is now worth more in market capital terms than software behemoth Microsoft. From the desktop to the pocket, Apple has become the consumer – and increasingly, enterprise – product of choice.

 In the blue corner, Adobe – another innovative firm, famed for its multimedia software and rich internet application development tools, such as Flash. And it is the last area that has caused consternation with Apple.

 At times, the heavyweight battle can look more like a schoolyard scrap. In a recent note (see further reading, below), Apple chief executive Steve Jobs made much of the former pals’ friendship.

 “Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer,” starts Jobs’ open letter, before taking a swipe at Adobe’s technical troubles.

 Jobs suggests Flash is poorly designed, has security concerns and is ill equipped for the mobile age (see further reading). Apple banned Flash from its iPhone in 2007 and its iPad in 2010, restricting the use of the third party tool for developers.

 For its part, Adobe has issued a staunch defence, concentrating on the inherent openness and innovation of the internet. Adobe co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock suggest that Apple’s restrictionscould undermine this next chapter of the web” (see further reading).

 Which is a big claim, but are they right? Flash is undoubtedly a popular web development mechanism. However, its attractiveness will undoubtedly be affected by Apple’s decision to restrict the use of Flash, especially as the iPhone and iPad are the devices of the moment.

 There are, of course, other web development platform options. Jobs’ letter refers to open standards, such as CSS and JavaScript. He draws particular attention to HTML5, which he says is the new web standard, a standard that means web developers do not have to rely on third party plug-ins.

 Currently under-development, HTML5 already boats some big backers and impressive features, such as drag-and-drop and – most crucially, in terms of the ongoing status of Adobe Flash – video playback.

 Round two of the fight is only just beginning but the combined power of Apple allied to the inevitable success of HTML5 could land a knock out blow on Flash.

Further reading


Can the BBC afford to take their eyes of HTML5?

October 4, 2010

You sometimes read an opinion that stands out and stops you in your tracks – and the below sentiment from a senior BBC executive about the next major revision of the HTML standard left me stunned.

 “I have concerns about HTML5’s ability to deliver on the vision of a single open browser standard which goes beyond the whole debate around video playback,” says the BBC’s future media and technology director Erik Huggers (see further reading, below).

 That viewpoint takes a negative approach to a fast-developing and – most importantly – open standard. The World Web Web Consortium (W3C) recently released the latest HTML5 draft specification, which will include native video support and will reduce the need for additional plug-ins and enhancements.

 It is a crucial step forwards. Providers currently take a disparate approach to web development, using a varied sample of codes, styles and plug-ins to produce the user interface. Such fragmentation often produces a disappointing web experience, with users aware that different browsers have different capabilities.

 HTML5 could be the start of something different. The standard already boasts some big backers and impressive features. Take Apple’s Steve Jobs, who is a passionate advocate and refers to HTML5 as the new web standard (see further reading).

 Microsoft, meanwhile, recently performed W3C Web Standards tests on the forthcoming Internet Explorer 9 (see further reading). For its part, Google has been using HTML5 to enhance the web-based version of Gmail and has even coded a Gmail-themed ‘shoot-em-up’ in HTML5 (see further reading).

 Most of the IT world, therefore, is preparing itself for an inevitable switch to HTML5. Apart from, it would seem, the BBC. Is the organisation right or wrong?

 Criticism of the BBC centres on the suggestion that its support of Flash belies broader support of open standards. Huggers suggests the organisation’s use of Flash is not a case of BBC favouritism and is the best way to deliver high quality video experience to the broadest possible audience. 

 More specifically, Huggers believes there is still a lot of work to be done on HTML5 before the BBC can integrate it fully into its products. But while work does need to be done, progress is remarkable.

 I believe Huggers is wrong to suggest that HTML5 progress is sailing off course and slowing. Backers are lining up to support the standard and, as stated above, the latest revisions to HTML5 have only just been released.

 The bandwagon for HTML5 has started to roll. Organisations either jump on now or get left behind. Way too many people want open standards-based solutions for HTML5 not to be a success. The BBC should not let its current requirements for video playback distract its attention away from the fast pace of web development.

Further reading:

Act Intelligently To Ensure E-Forms Are Applications

May 26, 2010

 This might be the information age but we are still obsessed with paper. As much as 62% of important documents are still archived as paper, according to content management association AIIM.

 Worse still, we often fail to use electronic forms of delivery when our fascination with the printed word is broken. Rather than simplifying business processes, electronic formatting too often adds a further layer of complication.

 Electronic forms – or e-forms – are a digital version of paper forms that should help eliminate the need to rely on paper. E-forms should also help firms encode data for multiple purposes, so that electronic data can be used in various ways to help improve information processing.

 But rather than implement a simple and disciplined approach to electronic form-filling, too many companies have multiple versions of ‘the truth’ stored in many different formats, from paper to spreadsheets and onto online forms of encoding.

 The simple message to technology leaders facing this morass of information is stop and think about the way your firm processes data. Analyst Gartner has produced a five-stage maturity model to help businesses bridge the paper-to-digital divide.

 The model provides a way for firms to deliver a return on investment as they move from paper-based data gathering to an optimised management process at the final level.

 However, there is some worrying news. Just 20% of large enterprises will have reached the fifth level of Gartner’s maturity model for e-forms by the end of 2010, according to the analyst.

 More attention, then, needs to be paid to e-forms. Even more critically, real concentration must be centred on how information is collected as part of the end-user experience.

 Gartner’s fifth stage of maturity suggests that the e-form should become the single graphical user interface. Such an approach optimises data gathering, database management and customer engagement. To quote Gartner: “It’s a form, but it’s also a rich application”.

 Using rich internet applications (RIAs) – fully-featured software that runs in a browser – should allow your business to gather relevant data and complete transactions quicker. The whole user experience will be centred in one place, without the need for individuals to complete extraneous e-forms.

 Such speed and convenience will mean your business can move towards an optimised management process. But becoming one of the firms that has a mature approach to e-forms will mean you need to act intelligently.


The Rich are Getting Richer

March 17, 2010

The last twelve months have been tough, with many businesses and individuals struggling against the change in economic conditions. But while times have been tough, many of the most popular news items have also helped highlight inequalities.

From the expenses claims of errant MPs through to large bonuses for failed bankers, individuals in all areas of the UK have been surprised how – at times of hardship – the rich seem to be getting richer. And the web is no different.

At the same time as a change in economic conditions, businesses face a change in marketing and buying. More and more individuals are choosing to interact with companies through the web – and some firms are struggling to respond effectively.

At this time of new interactivity it pays to focus on the customer experience and with that to differentiate yourselves from the competition by the quality of the customer experience. Leading firms are responding by making sites increasingly interactive, rather than the passive click and refresh approach the web was born with.

Improvements in web technology and broadband access have overcome the limitations of the early days of the web where customer experience design focused heavily on performance because of the technology constraints. With these issues lessening the new age of interaction presents a plethora of means for collaboration and slow-moving companies now risk being left behind.

High-intensity web sites provide a much more responsive feel akin to desktop applications and also provide a range of communication tools. Click on to a an innovator’s site and your likely to have a range of ostentatious options, including speech response, chat/video messaging and animated forms.

However web trends come and go increasingly quickly; today’s Twitter is tomorrow’s Friends Reunited. I have seen the issue of page scrolling from being cool to being a huge design sin and back to cool.

Expect also a greater range of form controls being deployed as the basic HTML controls only provide lists, edit fields, text fields and buttons. Companies are now buying or creating their own widget libraries to enrich their palette of form controls, note the recent advertisements from confused espousing the ease of use of slider bars.

With richer experiences expect to see animated page transitions, windows/pages no longer to be square, more visualised data than text, multi-media experiences using sound and video.

So the rich are getting richer, the only question is when will you join them  !


Rich Web Poor Web

September 1, 2008

When it comes to applications developed in Adobe Flash nobody can argue with their distinct visual appeal. Combining rich graphics and dynamic behaviour this is a technology that has focused very effectively on creating truely rich applications.


Now other similar multimedia technologies, such as Microsoft Silverlight – provide great platforms for developing sexy applications. Outside of these two proprietary options, developers are getting spoilt with huge arrays of AJax widgets, DoJo and BackBase to name just a couple.


Suddenly all applications could have the appeal and Mac like interfaces, and that what it’s all about when it comes to user interfaces isn’t it? 


When it comes to applications what is more important, the appearance and dynamism of its interface or its functionality and accessibility to information? Not a difficult question to answer – especially when you consider the demands of your users and customers, the majority of whom will require the right information quickly.


Internal users especially often get used to an application user interface and are able to navigate and enter data without even looking at screens. As such the allure of these sexy interfaces soon fades and the basic premises of usability comes to the fore. Rich web applications with poor web usability will only lose your audience over time.


So don’t be fooled by Rich Internet Applications as meaning “sexy user interfaces”, using the technology to create usable applications should be your first priority.


For example Ajax has it’s place not only for creating a greater array of user interface controls than standard HTML, but also ensuring application performance is optimised especially when users are accessing the application in low bandwidth environments.


As for Adobe Flash, well it’s real strengths lie in being able to create pixel perfect print layouts and creating desktop performant applications in a browser environment.


Smart design is an important consideration, but alone it is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. In the on-demand information age, a usable application is most definitely king.