Rich internet applications not only make web pages more responsive to surfers, but they can also be used as more responsive desktop apps too. We've looked at the four biggest cross-platform RIAs that were launched last year to find out just how good they are.
The first question to ask when picking a desktop RIA is how the application will be used, both as a web application and a desktop application. Then list the features you need. Are those features present in the RIAs you are considering? Are there ways to add missing features? Are you looking to enable fully or occasionally connected scenarios?
Once you've got your questions ready, you can figure out which RIA is best for your needs.
- Would it be better if you had separate desktop and web applications that shared a common code base? If so, consider a combination of WPF and Silverlight.
- Will your application have CPU-bound portions? If so, consider Silverlight and Curl Nitro.
- Does your application need to run locally without a browser? If so, consider Air and Curl Nitro.
- Do your developers already know WPF and the .Net Framework? If so, consider Silverlight. Do they already know Flash and Flex? If so, consider Air.
- Do you already have an AJAX Web application? If so, consider Air and Gears.
Finally, ask yourself if you really need a desktop RIA at all. Sometimes building a second interface for an application is a relatively small effort, if most of the work is being done by a common back end or if most of the code is common to both versions of the application.
In the larger picture, sometimes the advantages to users of having separate but optimised desktop and web user interfaces may outweigh the costs and time involved.