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Curl, a subsidiary of Japan's Sumisho Computer Systems with U.S. headquarters in Cambridge, MA, has recently released code for the Curl Rich Internet Application (RIA) platform to the open source software (OSS) community. RIA-based user-interface integration is growing in popularity as an interoperability strategy, providing an alternative to data or application middleware. The technology and the technique has received a lot of attention because of Adobe's emphasis on Flex and Microsoft's AJAX-based Application Server Page (ASP) extensions to its .NET architecture (ASP.net AJAX), which support Silverlight development.

A Taste of the Future

RIA is also possibly the technology underpinning needed to most rapidly put multi-media-based information technology (IT) on all kinds of new form factors. That is a trend being dubbed "experiential computing." In this disruptive environment, the user interface moves to kitchen countertops, the sides of refrigerators, the inside of car windshields, and so forth (so-called surface computing) as well as onto mobile devices much different than today's camera/cell phones (because they are more function specific).

To get the picture, literally, see Steven Spielberg's 2002 movie, Minority Report. It's nice to see that OSS is in on the movement, possibly in a starring role.

To be clear, RIA today is related to simply providing a better look and feel on the desktop client user interface. Integrating at the user-interface level in general and the Curl, Flex and the Microsoft products in specific minimize low-level programming, letting more business-oriented programmers and even computer-literate graphic designers improve the computer experience.

Curl wants to be there when the experiential computing disruption hits because such disruptions have historically changed the leadership lineup in the IT market. For now it wants to keep up with Adobe and Microsoft.

What RIA at Curl Means Today

Digging into its recent OSS-related announcement in a conversation with Jnan Dash, Curl's Chief Strategy Officer, and Richard Treadway, VP Product Strategy, I found a pure example of OSS as business model: giving away the razors to sell the razor blades. That does not mean to say that Curl is not interested in the development benefits of OSS or in some of the cultural aspects of the OSS movement.


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