Adobe turned heads with a pair of big RIA releases in 2008. Flex Builder 3.0 rounded out the Eclipse-based toolkit (supporting graphical layout of rich, Flash-driven Web GUIs) with real-time charting, wizards for data binding and Web services, application profiling, and extensions for Adobe CS3 aimed at bridging the designer-developer gap. Adobe's bigger news, however, was the debut of AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), an SDK and runtime for packaging and deploying rich Web applications directly to the desktop with support for offline persistence. No browser required. The recent 1.5 release strengthened the case for business use with database encryption and other improvements.
As 2008 drew to a close, Sun released JavaFX, its long-awaited entrant in the RIA race. Back in August, the preview SDK wowed InfoWorld's reviewer with impressive data binding capabilities; a good collection of widgets for layout, animation, and input device listeners; and support for vector objects, transparency, and 2-D keyframe animations. Like Adobe and Microsoft, Sun is also working to close the loop between design and development with plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Look for the InfoWorld Test Center's review of JavaFX 1.0 in coming weeks.
If you're looking for some good news from the year 2008, you'll find it in the amazing range of RIA developments. Adobe leads the way with the Flex/AIR combo, and their integration with matchless tools for designers. Microsoft's Silverlight has come very far very fast, putting ASP.Net developers on a fast path to RIA. And Sun's JavaFX, with its Java-like syntax, gives Java developers a tool (and commercial backer) they can easily warm to. Developers with their eye on tomorrow's Web never had it so good.