I've found, over the years, that in almost every successful field of
technology there's a "killer app," a category-leader so strong as to be
universally understood as the archetype of success in a given domain.
Conversely, when a technology lacks a killer app, it tends to be very
telling. It says something about the future of that technology.
Java, for example. When Java first arrived, there were high hopes for
its success based on the "write once, run anywhere" mantra. Applets
started showing up all over the Web. But on the desktop, no killer
apps. And even in the applet world, no killer apps, just a bunch of
little games and academic demos. (Java's "killer app," the thing that
would ensure its place in history, didn't really arrive until 1999:
something called J2EE.)
So when a new technology-space like RIA comes along, with contenders having fancy names like AIR, Silverlight, or JavaFX,
I sit back and wait for a "killer app" to emerge, signalling the
appearance of a likely winner (or at least a contender with a future
ahead of it) in the multi-way battle.
JavaFX was late to the
party, so I continue to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it looks
stillborn to me at this point (and I think the Oracle acquisition of
Sun may delay progress with JavaFX until far past the point where it
can regain ground against Adobe Flex/AIR). One thing we can all agree
on is that there is no killer JavaFX app. In fact I can't even name a
JavaFX app. Not a single one. "But it's too early," someone will say.
To the contrary, my friend: It may be too late.
the full mass and motive power of the Microsoft juggernaut behind it,
and for that reason we can't dismiss it (yet). But again, where are the
killer apps? Shouldn't we have seen one by now? Shouldn't it be
possible to walk up behind someone at any gathering of programmers, tap
a total stranger on the shoulder, and get an immediate answer to the
question: "Can you name a really cool Silverlight app?"
Yes, it's early.
then there's Adobe with its shiny new AIR technology, built atop
half-open, half-closed Flash and Flex infastructure, an alluring
platform with the not inconsiderable advantage of being built, largely,
it's new. But where are the killer apps?
Actually, there's a class of killer apps built around AIR now. (Maybe you've noticed?) It's called the Twitter Client. TweetDeck, Twhirl, AlertThingy, Toro, the list goes on and on. (Many of these are not just Twitter clients, of course. Some are perhaps better called social clients, since they interact with other services besides Twitter.)
Does this mean Adobe has won the RIA wars? No, of course not. But it sure has a nice head start.
we need to see now is whether additional killer-app categories start to
emerge around AIR. If AIR progresses beyond the point of supporting fun
apps, things could get very interesting (for users of cell phones, palm
devices, PCs, netbooks, laptops, readers, and who-knows-what-else) in a
If not -- if AIR remains the province of waist-slimming
Twitter clients and zero-calorie RSS feed readers -- then we may have
yet another evolutionary dead end along the lines of (dare I say it?) Java Man.