I loved this piece by Robin Bloor on The PC, The Cloud, RIA and the future. My favourite line:
Nowadays very few Mac/PC users have any idea where any program is executing.
And why should they? Users want stuff to just work, after all. Bloor says more clearly than I have managed why RIA is the future of client computing. He emphasises the cost savings of multi-tenancy, and the importance of offline capability; he says the PC will become a caching device. He thinks Google Chrome is significant. So do I. He makes an interesting point about piracy:
All apps will gradually move to RIA as a matter of vendor self interest. (They’d be mad not to, it prevents theft entirely.)
Bloor has said some of this before, of course, and been only half-right. In 1997 he made his remark that
Java is the epicenter of a software earthquake, and the shockwaves are already shaking the foundations of the software industry.
predicting that Java browser-hosted or thin clients would dominate computing; he was wrong about Java’s impact, though perhaps he could have been right if Sun had evolved the Java client runtime to be more like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight, prior to its recent hurried efforts with JavaFX. I also suspect that Microsoft and Windows have prospered more than Bloor expected in the intervening 12 years. These two things may be connected.
I think Bloor is more than half-right this time round, and that the RIA model with offline capability will grow in importance, making Flash vs Silverlight vs AJAX a key battleground.