Saturday, September 6, 2008

Brand Value: Silverlight versus Flex

How many people have heard of Microsoft? May be everybody who has a PC
How many people have heard of Adobe? I bet a very small fraction of the above population.
When Microsoft comes out with a product the user base is already there looking for that product. They launched Vista last year but people were already waiting for it since last 3-4 years.
This is the power of branding. Microsoft has clearly established in that perspective. Whether their offerings are really that cool or not is the other part of the story.
Microsoft, historically has bee bit passive in the internet technologies. The Browser wars(Netscape versus IE) is a classic example. WEB 2.0 is the current buzz word in the Internet parley and it is taking the world with storm. The companies are coming up with RIA (Rich internet applications) which offer very rich UIs, almost like the Desktop. Its all about user experience. The applications are marketed for their rich experience rather than their functionalities.
Anyways coming to the M-Aspect, Adobe (they actually coined the term RIA) came up with their Toolkit called Flex, to make the development of RIA easy and fast. Flex has been around for about 3 years and has become quite stable technology. A lot of people around the world have embraced this technology and are developing really cool web applications. Lot of big names in the market like Yahoo, HP, SAP are using Flex for their products. But even with so much support the common people have never heard of Flex or RIA.
2 years back Microsoft started working on Silverlight as their offering against Flex. Even though it is not being used in any commercial web sites but people are excited about it. If you discuss people about flex, the first question will be why don't you use Silverlight....Its from Microsoft. Even though they have neither worked on Silverlight nor on Flex, but they feel more comfortable to put their bet on Silverlight compared to Flex.
In my opinion this is all because of the Brand Value. People have a kind of faith in the brand they have been using. Microsoft has always been looked upon as a company which comes out with new programming languages, Operating systems, Office software...practically everything. So its obvious that they have come up with a RIA toolkit (Siverlight).
On the other hand Adobe, is known for software like PDF reader, Writer, PhotoShop...none of them is a OS or a general programming language. So when Adobe comes up with a language and a new paradigm of developing internet applications, people have doubts on their credibility. Another blow to the Flex popularity is the fact that it doesnot use javascript. Currently the general notion about the internet applications is: A website with javascript, XML, AJAX, CSS, RSS and so on. Now Flex uses actionscript which again raises people eye brows. Lot of javascript vs actionscript debate started in the recent years. Whenever such debate start, its likely that the people who are the supporters of one technology will start promoting it with full support. They will write blogs, give usage statistics etc. So now a person who is new to both actionscript and javascript when tries to decide upon which way to go, he follows an easy metrics of the popularity.
Silverlight is based on javascript so thats another advantage.
AJAX is another technology or I will say paradigm that has to be there in case your website has to get any respect. Flex never advertise much on the AJAXian capabilities. They advertise RIA more than AJAX. Web 2.0 is all about the jargons and clearly jargon AJAX is lot more popular and than RIA. Web 2.0 is associated with AJAX. I have heard lot of early Web 2.0 heros admitting that without AJAX there is no Web 2.0. So when you have a product whose sole USP is RIA, a new person who wants to have a web 2.0 type of website immediately raises doubt: If I use flex will my website be called Web 2.0?
Just to summarize Flex is a great product and is very easy to use, but from the popularity wise it will face tough competitions. One of the major factor that helped flex to reach upto the current state was the fact that was an early entrant. But with so many companies and specially Microsoft offering the same type of product, its going to be tough time for flex.

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