Riapalooza 2 A Must for RIA Enthusiasts

Last month Chicago had our very own gathering of great minds in the Rich Internet Application (RIA) space. Riapalooza, as it’s called, is a yearly one day conference meant to foster the RIA community in the midwest region. This year’s event was held Friday, May 8th at the Illinois Technology Association (200 S Wacker Drive 15th Floor Chicago, IL) and is the second one of its kind. Riapalooza aims to be technology agnostic and as such we had representatives from many players in the space including a contingency of Microsoft evangelists and few Adobe evangelists.

Adobe has been in the RIA space a long time with its Flash runtime being ubiquitous in over 98% of all desktops. Flash Lite, Adobe’s mobile Flash runtime is forecasted to be in over 1 BILLION mobile devices by 2009. Adobe’s AIR runtime, a cross platform runtime that brings RIAs to the desktop, already has over 100 million installs.

Microsoft on the other hand is a relative new player in the RIA space. Although they’ve been on the web with their .NET platform for a while, it wasn’t as rich an experience as some of the stuff people are used to seeing today. Even though Microsoft was a pioneer in the RIA space with their XmlHttpRequest, a cornerstone in rich AJAX enabled websites today, their early RIA offerings were met with limited success. Lately Microsoft has been pushing Silverlight, a cross platform RIA runtime meant to compete head on with Flash.

The event itself had a very good turnout. The conference room was packed with developers in the industry. The sessions covered a variety of topics from real world RIA problems, consuming 3rd party APIs in Flex, case studies, to RIAs controlled by alternative user interfaces. The six sessions were jam packed with material. I really enjoyed Corey Miller’s Building Interactive Applications Using UX Principles. His presentation can be found on his blog.

The “unconference” also had panel discussions during lunch which was great because it really engaged the audience through participation. Larry Clarkin did a great job of moderating and seeding questions and getting the conversation going. Topics included RIAs and the emerging mobile platform, the definition of RIA, what an evangelist is and what do they do, to how the various companies are approaching RIAs as well. It was great to see Adobe and Microsoft representatives butt heads in a friendly rivalry. What was also great was that user experience (UX) with respect to RIAs was probably given as much face time as RIA technologies. There were discussions of emerging computing areas that will be affected by RIAs such as mobile and touch screens.

Riapalooza is a definite must for developers in the industry interested in learning more about RIAs, meeting new people, connecting with experts and thought leaders in the industry, and keeping up with RIA news and technology. And at $20 a pop, $10 for early registration, it’s a no brainer.

A recap of the talk that Adam Flater and I gave on RIAs beyond the Mouse and Keyboard can be found here.

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