If virtual desktops great, why not used more?

Virtualization analyst Brian Madden asks an excellent question:

If VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is so great, then why aren't you using it?

It's a really good question, isn't it? Brian observes that however encouraged we are by the progress VDI has made, and however enthused we may be about extending the wins of server virtualization over into the desktop realm, we, personally, are not using desktop virtualization. You don't see analysts and developers doing so. And even the folks you meet from Citrix, Microsoft, Quest, VMware, and Wyse--the people selling VDI, for goodness' sake!--use traditional &… Read more

Thin client computing grows up

I've been following the evolution of client-side computing off and on for over 20 years. Remember ASCII terminals? Green screens? Beehives? X terminals? If you do, they're most likely dimming memories.

The history of client side computing is filled with efforts to shift the balance of power between the server (ne host) and the client device. Which side is responsible for what, and how the sides communicate with each other, determine the cost, control, security, flexibility, and richness of the result. Some years it's "do everything meaningful on the server." Others, "do most work … Read more

Microsoft to devs: Silverlight is still important to us

If one thing was made clear at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference last week, it's that the software giant wants in on some of the HTML5 mojo competitors have been trumpeting over the last year or so. What wasn't made clear, however, was the future of Silverlight--Microsoft's media runtime that competes with HTML5 in a number of areas.

That much was presented to developers in the company's keynote, which encompassed updates to its virtualization and cloud computing platform, all the way to new phone apps and a platform preview of the company's update of … Read more

AOL updates its Silverlight-infused Web mail beta

AOL has updated its Silverlight-powered Web mail beta with a handful of small, but important features that bring it closer in functionality to its standard Web counterpart.

Users can now print e-mails they've received, add a standard signature that gets attached to every outgoing message, flag and filter messages, and watch WMV-formatted video that's been sent as an attachment in full screen using the embedded video player. This is actually one of the coolest features of the bunch, since it provides a quick thumbnail preview, then opens it in a player that comes up as an on-screen overlay. … Read more

Reading between the lines of Red Hat's Google Web Toolkit play

Red Hat is partnering with Google to build on Google's Web Toolkit (GWT), technology that enables users to cross-compile and optimize Java code as JavaScript for use in different browsers.

But what does this mean? Why should anyone care?

Rich Sharples, director of Product Management at Red Hat, suggests that GWT was the shortest route to cutting through the clutter of competing RIA solutions like Appcelerator, a startup that employs some JBoss veterans and which just raised $4.1 million in venture capital and wants to displace Adobe AIR and other Rich Internet Application (RIA) platforms...like GWT:

The world doesn't need another Java framework for developing rich AJAX apps. so we've decided to go with what we think is a real leader - Google Web Toolkit.

But Red Hat's work with GWT isn't about competitors, as Sharples told me in a follow-up email. It's about customers and developers, and offers significant insight to Red Hat's development strategy:

If there is a grand plan, it's to deliver what developers and customers actually want. We're a demand-driven business - if we don't give customers that they want then we face the prospect of having to compete with some much larger and much more powerful competitors on [their] terms [, not the customers'].

I think that JBoss/Red Hat represents a maturity with respect to how it views technology that I haven't seen anywhere else....[T]he reason we can punch way above our weight is because we've accepted that we don't have to be the sole source of innovation for everything we ship: we're willing to forego some control for the advantage of being able to deliver a technology stack composed of the best, most popular components.

That's practical because we've spent the last 3 years building a very flexible and adaptable server-side platform (JBoss AS 5.0.0) - the same run-time can be use to deploy stateless GWT apps., Spring apps., Ruby apps. or BPEL or Java EE / Seam apps. or whatever else comes along. We won't inflict a different run-time on customers just because they choose a new framework or technology. Operations people like stability and consistency. Developers like choice.

In other words, Red Hat's work with GWT is a chance for Red Hat to cater to developers already-expressed desires for a Red Hat RIA story, but within the context of the enterprise. This, of course, requires a developer focus, and for that I also asked Michael Neale, a senior engineer on the JBoss Drools project with Red Hat, to give me the developer perspective on Red Hat's GWT development:… Read more

With JavaFX, Sun seeks new coders, new revenue

With a back-to-the-future technology called JavaFX to be launched Thursday, Sun Microsystems hopes to attract a new class of developer while building a much-needed new revenue source.

JavaFX 1.0 returns to the sales pitch that Sun used during Java's launch more than 13 years ago: a foundation for software on a wide variety of computing "clients" such as desktop computers or mobile phones. JavaFX builds on current Java technology but adds two major pieces.

First is a new software foundation designed to run so-called rich Internet applications--network-enabled programs with lush user interfaces. Second is a new … Read more

AOL revs Web-based AIM to version 7

AOL has upgraded its AIM Express software, an online Flash-based application that replicates many of the features of the regular downloadable software (add your own review here).

Among the new AIM Express 7.0 features are tabbed conversations, status messages, text-message support to communicate with buddies' mobile phones, and compatibility with Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Mozilla's Firefox 2 and 3, and Apple's Safari 2 and 3.

The software is an example of the growing utility and sophistication of Web-based applications. Instant messaging, though, is somewhat more amenable to the task: it doesn't require the … Read more

Flash, HTML, Ajax: Which will win the Web app war?

The days when Web pages were static collections of text and graphics are long past. But as the Web matures, there's a fierce competition over which technology will propel it into a medium for rich, interactive applications.

On one side of the battle lines is the original Web page description technology called HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language. Over the years, its abilities were augmented first with JavaScript, a basic programming language, and later a JavaScript-on-steroids technology called Ajax.

On the other side is Adobe Systems' Flash, which got its start as a method for graphic animations. It's grown into a much more powerful programming foundation over the years and has been joined more recently by a competitor: Microsoft's Silverlight.

All these technologies are advancing rapidly as Internet start-ups and giants such as Google race to transform personal computer software into services available on the Internet. These so-called rich Internet applications rarely match the performance and features of PC-based applications, at least today, but online applications can benefit from sharing, reliability, and access from multiple devices.

Consumers typically need not worry much about the programming plumbing beneath their online applications. But suppose you're the person on the hook for your company's online expense reporting tool or a start-up planning to build an online music mixer for anyone on the Internet. You'll have to place a bet on which technology is best and which programmers to hire or train.

Few expect the competition to have a winner any time soon.

"You'll continue to see a high degree of flux for probably the next several years," said Kevin Hoyt, an Adobe Systems technology evangelist for rich Internet applications.

People in the computer industry love to talk about competition, which indeed often does keep companies from growing complacent. But it's also awfully convenient when some foundational technology--Windows, JPEG, and USB spring to mind--dominates to the point where most engineers need not worry much about the messy chaos of multiple choices.

The HTML camp The HTML side of the battle has its roots in industry standards and in the task of displaying information. That's good and bad.

Industry standards can attract broad adoption, but they're typically slow to arrive. And though both JavaScript and HTML are standards, differences in how they're implemented in different browsers--and even different versions of the same browser--force programmers to accommodate all the possibilities.

Unlike during the browser wars of the 1990s, though, there's more convergence than divergence these days. Even the upcoming version 8 of the dominant browser, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, will ship in a standards-compliant mode by default.

Read more

Sun throws JavaFX hat into Web app ring

Sun Microsystems on Thursday released a preview version of JavaFX, programming technology the company hopes will be the foundation of splashy, whiz-bang Internet applications.

JavaFX, like its Java progenitor, includes both software to execute programs and a programming language used to write those programs--JavaFX Script for the new technology.

Java has a strong brand in programming circles, but the technology caught on chiefly for use on servers and mobile phones. Sun is trying to go full circle with JavaFX, billing the software as a way to run software on desktop PCs. The software includes support for 2D and 3D graphics, … Read more

Firefox 3: New front in the browser war

Update 12:23 p.m. PDT: The official Firefox 3 download site is live; the record-setting attempt began at 11:16 a.m. PDT. Update 10:53 a.m PDT: See this separate blog post on the Mozilla download site troubles. Update 10:02 a.m. PDT: Mozilla is having some technical issues with the site but expects the download to be available shortly. Update 6:43 a.m. PDT: I added the scheduled launch time, 10 a.m. PDT.

Mozilla plans to release Firefox 3 on Tuesday, and the open-source project is opening a new front in the browser … Read more