Like most technology bloggers today, I also will take a stab at a prediction for 2008. The prediction is simple; this will be the year that we engage in discussion around devices and RIA.

State of Play

Devices are getting smarter, more usable and most important of all – cheap. If you are like me, you may have a lot of devices attached to your name lying around the house or work. I myself have 2x XBOX 360’s, 1x XBOX Original, 1x iPod Touch, 1x Zune, 1x iPod Nano, Samsung BlackJack and well heaps more.

I’m what many would call an “Enthusiast” when it comes to device ownership. Yet what does a lot of these have in common? They are essentially connected. The problem however is that they each require unique approaches to developing against and this is bad form and in my opinion, now becomes prime candidate for the RIA discussion to take place.

RIA is still at its infancy. It’s still heavily focused today in what it can do on the desktop but when you look at the context of what RIA hints at, it's really about delivering rich connected experiences within a sandbox existence.

The problem I foresee with RIA is it keeps getting pushed into inheriting desktop models, thus the sandbox boundaries start to be probed. It’s the wrong discussion, the right discussion is how to agree on a sandbox and then deploy the agreed sandbox to multiple devices. As this in turn can provide a prescribed format in which developer(s) can build once and then deliver to one or more surfaces.

This isn’t happening – Yet..

In 2007, Potential was on the horizon

Adobe and Apple are two power brands that are rumoured to get married soon. The rumours state that iPod Touch / iPhone and Flash Runtime are expected to be joined at the hip via some partnership of some kind between the two brands. The initial problem with this theory is that Apple and Adobe will have to agree on the terms of competition centred on QuickTime delivery vs. Flash delivery not to mention tooling such as Final Cut Pro vs. Adobe Premier.

It won't stop there either, Adobe AIR could also potentially hurt Apple with its Safari compete as what AIR really hints at is “please park me on a device” given its unique sandbox positioning. Thus the waters can be considered murky if the partnership were to go ahead.

However, let's assume Apple and Adobe was to become partners. This could now become a very interesting conversation to have as now the RIA debate gets hotter and stakes in the game get higher and harder. The state of play may very well change - not to mention the ripple effects associated with Apple/Adobe RIA's of tomorrow. As they now become a portable and desktop experience with a one-to-many build and delivery workflow.

Where does this leave Microsoft? I have no doubt we’d deliver a proportional response to this hypothetical should it arise (we essentially have strong movement in this space today), but the point is that it’s an attractive value proposition to consider - even for a brief moment – thus I’d encourage you to Start the conversation now while the overall RIA landscape is in its infancy.

The first part of the RIA on device discussion starts with UX Platform.

The overarching piece to the RIA conversation is UX Platform. It comprises of not just development environments (tools, workflow etc) but also client surfaces likely to be reached. It won’t stop there, the respective brands that play a role will also need to bid, broker, barter whatever it takes to get their nominated technology onto such devices - thus it requires an early bond with strong partners. The flip side to this is that there will also need to be an attractive developer base behind it – as no developers means limited solution delivery.

I firmly believe that Microsoft has the correct ingredients going forward, it’s relatively early days but the device discussion can still be influenced. The mood is right and this year is a great time to think beyond the browser and consider how our UX Platform fits in with tomorrow’s markets.

Going forward, three things are clear:

  • Brands like Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Google, Mozilla etc all have strong stakes in this game.
  • Audio/Video is the first hunting grounds (market channel), as its got enormous amounts of eyeballs whom are found UX wanting.
  • Developer & Designer workflow are at both a complex and yet fragile state one wrong move by the above brands and it could hurt significantly.

What’s not clear is who is likely to get 2/3 market share around devices with their nominated RIA solution (of course I’d say Microsoft has potential etc but I’m biased). This is where the next frontier will be and I predict 2008 is the year in which the discussion is going to be had.

I state this as it in 2007 we saw iPod Touch / iPhone and the first thoughts around that centered on how Social Network phenomenon like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr could get a piece of that action.

In short, RIA’s begging to be built, but with no SDK to match the proposed demand.