Battle of the RIA Stars

RIA WARSTech journalists often garner criticism for casting the competition between technology companies in overly dramatic terms, typically involving the language of warfare. “The Browser Wars.” “Blu-Ray Wins HD DVD Battle.” And so on. I’ve been guilty of this once or twice myself. But it’s difficult to see the competition between Microsoft and Adobe for leadership in the rich Internet application space in anything other than combative terms.

Consider the following recent tit-for-tat public relations squabble between Microsoft and Adobe Systems.

At the approach of Adobe’s MAX conference earlier this week, it was widely suspected that the event would be a coming out party for the company’s forthcoming product code-named “Thermo” (now re-christened Flash Catalyst), which enables an integrated workflow between designers and developers building Flash-based RIAs.

The Friday before MAX opened, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie penned an extensive blog post describing “the ease with which developers and designers can collaborate together” on Silverlight projects using Microsoft’s Expression Blend. It is difficult to imagine that the timing was coincidental.

At the opening MAX keynote on Monday, Adobe announced that Major League Baseball — which had previously been supporting Microsoft’s Silverlight video technology — would switch to Adobe’s Flash Platform to deliver all of its live and on-demand video offerings beginning in 2009.

Just before this news broke publicly — on Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 11:01 PM — Guthrie posted another lengthy blog entry titled “Update on Silverlight 2 – and a glimpse of Silverlight 3” that, in addition to detailing the abundant features of the Silverlight platform, enumerated many of the media wins for Silverlight, including the high-profile NBC Olympics site, the recent announcement that Blockbuster “is replacing Flash with Silverlight for its MovieLink application,” and Netflix’s plans to change its Watch Instantly service from Windows Media Player to Silverlight.

I’ll try not to toss around overly bellicose terms to characterize these skirmishes. But that’s not easy to do when two of the world’s largest PC software companies are going head-to-head to establish the dominant platform for the next generation of software application development.

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