today Adobe's AIR got a nice piece of free advertisement in the NYT. the thing that surprises me most is how well Adobe and Microsoft (they are pushing Silverlight) succeed in selling their proprietary software packages as something that is closely related to the Web. they even managed to shift the term Rich Internet Application (RIA), which in the beginning referred to a browser-based application using advanced scripting and Ajax, and now refers to any application that is able to access data on the web. which is rather silly, because these days almost every application is able to do that in one way or the other.
the article says that
AIR applications can mimic the functions of a Web browser but do not require a Web browser to run. in a way, this nicely outlines the biggest problem and the ultimate goal of AIR: it is not intended as something that augments the web, it is meant to basically replace the web, by still providing access to web data, but through a proprietary application. IE was the first really big attempt to do that, Flash was at least mostly confined to plug-ins, and now AIR and Silverlight are the next attempts to again turn web browsing into a walled garden.
another interesting quote is that regarding AIR vs. Silverlight,
the battle will largely pit Microsoft's 2.2 million .NET software developers against the more than one million Adobe Flash developers. the lesson here is that the main reason for many to go Flash or Silverlight or AIR is not good information or web architecture or a decision based on actual user needs, it is based on the preferences of developers, who are used to developing for some platform. and the commercial platforms all provide nicely polished development platforms, which make development less complicated than actually developing for the web. when i wrote about how the iPhone's flashlessness might make Flash less attractive, there was not a single user who said they wanted Flash on the iPhone, but a lot of Flash developers submitted angry comments about Flash's superiority as a web technology, and how primitive it would be to just use Web standards.
one comment said:
How did you manage to attract so many flash apologists to your post? Perhaps Adobe has them all organized into militias? this is (hopefully) not completely true, but probably it is close to the ideal development envisioned by Adobe and Microsoft: get developers hooked on convenient development tools, and they will become salespeople for these products, convincing technically less inclined people what a big advance product X is in terms of developing advanced Web applications.
of course, the big players have to push proprietary technologies so that they can sell tools and make money. the thing that worries me most is that the marketing blurbs of
this is the next step in web development then start coming out of the mouths of people who are not paid by these companies, and should know better.