I completely missed this discussion going on everywhere, but after Google Wave demo people started talking about Wave being Silverlight/Air killer. I read through the longish post by Tim Heuer (Program manager at Microsoft) where he tries to put this in context. His summary is pretty much that Google Wave is product not platform, let alone RIA platform so there is no really a point for comparison. Agreed.

As I was reading his post I nodded my head… But then I remembered…

While I was watching Google Wave demo one thing caught my ear. They said that Wave was built using Google Web Toolkit, in fact they said that they would not even think about building Wave without GWT. They also said that controls that were in Wave will make it into the GWT.

When I heard that I  immediately made mental note to check out GWT. I heard about it but have not paid attention to it. Seeing really good Google Wave demo had me intrigued.

In essence the GWT is a client side toolkit where you write and debug your client side code in Java but when you are done it compiles into the pure JavaScript that you run in any browser no Java required. This is huge because you get strong typing and all good language features from Java.

The UI is done in very similar manner that we do UI using Windows Forms or even WPF and Silverlight, though it seems everything is done using code.

Layout approach is similar to WPF, Silverlight where you use panels etc. GWT has built-in AJAX support which from demos looks solid. On server you can use anything from PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby, whatever. I assume Google Reader and GMail are built using GWT which is impressive.

I ended up buying a book so I can learn more about it. It is interesting.

I can see where comparison to RIA platforms is. If you can build such rich applications with GWT why would you use Silverlight or Adobe Air? There is no run-time to install as with the RIA platforms and GWT runs everywhere and abstracts browser incompatibilities.

So the real comparison maybe GWT vs RIA platforms. I think people will use both. There is a need for pure HTML/JS web apps and there is a need for RIA’s. Having them all compete is really good for us developers… Can GWT really displace Silverlight or Adobe AIR? For certain kind of applications, definitely.

What do you think?

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