Friday, March 14, 2008

RIAs Connect Marketers and Customers

Yesterday Adobe sent me a white paper about a product called Adobe Air. It looked like widgets, and I like widgets, so I opened it and read it.

No, it isn’t widgets, it’s a development platform for rich internet applications (RIAs). As I understand the difference in simple layperson’s terms, widgets provide a single piece of functionality—check the weather from your desktop, subscribe to this blog by email or RSS (see the right column), or get NFL schedules and team results on your iPhone. The thousands of widgets available connect you to a single type of functionality at your desktop or on the go, and they’ve become very popular.

RIAs seems to be a next step in Web 2.0 functionality. First an example. I downloaded the Google Analytics application, and it’s now sitting there on my desktop. By clicking on it I can get direct access to my Google Analytics account, select any of the blogs and websites I have on the account, and look at the current stats for that site. It’s just like being on Google Analytics except that I don’t have to go to the site and sign in. Because it’s easier, I check more often. That’s the same experience I’ve had with widgets and RSS feeds. Adobe has over 40 RIAs for download at present. This shows one that connects the user directly to content from NASDAC.
Cool! So I started reading a bit more. A post on ZDNet from last year, by enterprise applications expert Dion Hinchcliffe not only does a pretty good job of explaining but also puts another spin on it. There are many potential applications of RIAs inside the enterprise. The examples in the second paragraph above are all of connecting customers with your content and functions.

There are many platforms for developing RIAs. Some appear to be special-purpose, dealing with specific platforms like the popular AJAX used by so many retailers. Microsoft’s SilverLight is another developer platform that has gotten a lot of attention in recent months. They have an excellent overview of what RIAs can do for marketers and enterprises on the SilverLight site.

The good news is that RIAs are clearly an up-and-coming way of dealing directly with your customers—and making it easy for them to deal directly with you. Think about the fact that this puts your application right in front of the customer. They don’t have to go to the net and search for the information—thereby undoubtedly encountering search results and ads from your competitors. You’ve created an environment in which it’s easier to deal with you than to include your competitors in a consideration set.

The bad news is that this is not DIY in the sense of marketers doing it themselves. This involves JAVA, AJAX and all sorts of all other languages that only developers speak. So it takes some skilled work by developers to create the apps. Once that is done, it becomes easy for the marketer to deploy and the customer to use.

That may be an emerging definition of Web 2.0.
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Ram Dhan Yadav, Kotamaraja said...

Dear Mary,

I am very curious to know your prediction on the impact of Adobe Air on the industry. Isn't this Adobe's attempt to take over the desktop from Microsoft? If it is the motive, can Adobe succeed on the Microsoft's turf? Google has been extremely aggressive in porting desktop applications to the webs. Now one can potentially get all the Office software and in the form Google docs / calendar etc. I am also wondering if this Adobe Air attempt will help Microsoft take back the desktop through an aggressive Silver Light push on to the desktop. If yes, what would be the implication on the Marketers?

MaryLou Roberts said...

Thanks for the question. I don't know that I have prediction, just the general belief that competition is good. I do think that what Microsoft, Google and Adobe all recognize is that the move to open source like Open Ofice or freeware like Google docs is another inexorable trend. Historically, Adobe--not Microsoft--does seem to have the best business model for actually making some money in this space; give away the reader so developers will have to buy the developer software. Adobe Air is offered free to developers as best I can tell;a similar product, Flex, is clearly for sale, but they seem to have a free version also. Is this a change for Adobe, or is it just in this space? How will they make money if they don't sell the developer software? Interesting questions that I don't know the answer to.