Microsoft just announced the Silverlight platform for deploying web applications. TechCrunch has a great summary of the announcement. Earlier this week, Adobe announced the Flex platform will be open sourced. This is on top of the speculation of the impact of their Apollo platform. Both of these platforms provide developers with new and interesting ways to build out web applications. Both will have wide cross-browser and cross-OS support.
|Plugin Requirements||None required||Flash plugin required||Silverlight plugin required||
Currently slight advantage for AJAX and Flash. The Flash plugin is ubiquitous and Silverlight is rare, but that will rapidly change. It is also a moot point for internal applications where the browser landscape can be controlled.
|Ease of Development for RIAs||
|Very good. Well documented libraries. Decent development environment.||Remains to be seen, but MS has historically been good at building easy to use development environments.||Flex is way ahead of AJAX here|
|APIs for Visual Display||Poor when compared to other technologies. Limited by HTML/CSS. There are cool and inventive hacks, but nowhere near the functionality available in Flex (and it appears Silverlight)||Very Good||Seemingly tremendous|
|Developer Community||Very large as a general technology, but if you are using a specific library, like Echo 2, the community shrinks significantly.||Large||Small now, but I imagine it will grow very rapidly|
As I look at these technologies, it seems to me that we should really be looking at Flex and Silverlight for more of our internal development. As the technology battle plays out, my bet is that Flex and Silverlight become the top two players in the RIA game, with AJAX falling behind the two.
One thing is for certain, I would not want to be a Java Applet developer.