Microsoft Redefines RIA!

Some people were fussing last week about the latest evil scheme by Micro$oft to take over the world via the insidious renaming of the term Rich Internet Application to Rich Interactive Application. Curses! Foiled again! You got us on that one. After running all the simulations on Hal XP, we calculated that changing that one word would net us nearly eleventy kajillion dollars thereby ensuring total world domination. And if it wasn’t for you meddling teenagers and Scooby-Doo(tm), we would’ve gotten away with it. So…

…conspiracy theories are fun and all but the truth is that we first had this discussion with Ovum, an analyst group in the UK. Here’s an excerpt from one of their papers, RIA: putting the user first :

As surely as winter follows autumn, the software industry continually presents us with new programming models. The latest is rich Internet applications (RIA), which have been around for quite a few years waiting for an architecture on which it can be deployed. One of the problems with this name is that whenever the words ‘rich’ and ‘Internet’ appear next to each other, it is commonly taken to assume that they mean multimedia, music and video, not data and business applications. A better description for these classes of applications is ‘rich interactive client applications. ‘Rich’ suggests that they offer more than a simple browser-based application and ‘interactive’ indicates that these are more than simply presentation layers. Rich interactive applications (RIA) are at the centre of the drive to make the experience of a user’s interaction with software applications matter more…

Ryan Stewart’s entire blog is about RIA’s and he was recently using both phrases interchangeably: “pull together the benefits of the web and the benefits of the desktop and blend them into rich, interactive applications.”

Now do a web search for the term “rich interactive” and see what pulls up. The term is used by IBM: “rich interactive applications that bind together disparate services“, by Microsoft (seven years ago!) for IE 5.5: “New Internet Explorer 5.5 Technologies Designed to Support Rich, Interactive Web Applications

The last point I want to bring up is, perhaps, the most interesting. In speaking with a major analyst firm recently, they spoke about RIA’s and mentioned that for all of the companies they talk to, “RIA” meant AJAX and nothing else. It’s very interesting that the RIA term has seen a major uptake without the original implication of the flash plugin.

All of that said, I don’t personally think it matters that much. There’s really no advantage to Microsoft to twiddle with a single word in a name for competitive reasons–it’s just an attempt to make the definition of this murky area a little clearer. Is AJAX RIA technology? What about Apollo? WPF?

Maybe we need RIIA? Rich Interactive Internet Applications. :)

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