Home Morfik’s Ajax Platform Set To Challenge Google, Adobe, Microsoft

Morfik’s Ajax Platform Set To Challenge Google, Adobe, Microsoft

There’s been lots of talk
recently about desktop/web platforms. Last week we mentioned more News Reader desktop
apps powered by
Microsoft’s WPF platform
, and of course this week Adobe has featured twice on R/WW
due to its unveiling
of Apollo
. We’ve also profiled smaller companies in the past – e.g. Laszlo and Morfik. The latter company, Morfik, has mostly been
flying under the radar for the past year, but their 100% Ajax platform is getting set for
its 1.0 release at the end of March. I caught up with the team recently to see what
they’ve got under the hood….

The last time I profiled Morfik, in April 2006, I noted that their
goal is to push the edges of what can run on current browsers. They’re doing this by
creating a platform on which developers can develop complex and highly functional Ajax
applications. Morfik then, is designed to take advantage of the browser rendering engine
to its fullest potential.

Ajax-ifying Salesforce.com

One of Morfik’s more intriguing lab experiments
currently is the transformation of the Salesforce.com interface into a purely Ajax one.
AjaxSalesforce was described to me as a demonstration of “what a Salesforce.com
experience could truly be like, if state-of-the-art Ajax technology is used”. Created
with Morfik AppsBuilder, the app aims to create a UI that mimics the functionality of a
desktop CRM system – but using 100% Ajax.

What is Morfik exactly?

In a nutshell, Morfik allows developers to use high-level programming languages (which
give the developer more power – e.g. BASIC, C#, Pascal) to create web apps. It does this
by converting apps from high level language INTO Ajax code. For example, says Morfik, all
the rich internet apps in their labs were written in a high level language, then
translated into Javascript. So essentially you can develop web apps not needing to know
Javascript, or even what Ajax is.

You can also create web services using Morfik. In our discussion, I noticed that
Adobe’s Flex was being mentioned a lot as a point of comparison. In the case of web
services, the Morfik developers told me their platform offers “everything in one box” –
that developers can use external things, unlike with Flex.

Another feature of Morfik is that it can create “unplugged” web apps, meaning offline
functionality. They’ve built real world examples (some which can’t be mentioned publicly
yet) that can run unplugged, with access to a central or local database – all via the web
browser! Yes, offline web browsing and well before Firefox 3 has
delivered similar functionality

One real world example I can quote is a French investment house, which is using Morfik
technology to allow their salesforce to go out into the field and collect data on their
laptops, in the browser but offline – then when they come back to the office,
everything is synced up automatically.

Another prototype is a desktop version of Gmail, which has the ability to check email

Morfik’s platform is still in development, but their 1.0 version is due for release
sometime in March – it’s currently in the last beta process. For developers reading this,
I encourage you to go test it out, because this is a leading edge web development
toolset. The pricing: an express license is free for non-commercial apps, and they also
offer a “professional license” which has no deployment or ongoing cost and can run
anywhere/everywhere in a business.


So how does Morfik stack up to its competition? This can get complicated for
non-developers like me, but the crux of it is that Morfik uses 100% Ajax and renders in
the native browser. Whereas all the other platforms use non-native browser plug-ins (like
Flash) or render outside the browser. Adobe’s Apollo and Laszlo both largely
output in Flash (a browser plug-in) and Microsoft’s WPF renders outside the browser.

So Morfik thinks there’s nothing on the market comparable to their platform. Possibly
their main threat though is whatever Google might be cooking up. The Google Web Toolkit is a similar tool to
Morfik, in that it enables developers to create sophisticated Ajax applications using
Java. There was even a
rumor swirling around
in May last year that Google partnered with Morfik, or licensed
technology from it. Morfik is tight-lipped about GWT, as they are apparently still under
NDA obligations. However, they told me that “despite Google’s technology claims, Google
does not use GWT for any of its on-line services”. 

It’s unclear to me what the relationship is between Google and Morfik, but we can
speculate on the reasons why Google doesn’t use GWT internally on its own apps. There
could be some legal issue constraining GWT usage, making it risky for high stake services
such as GMail or Google Maps. Or it may be that GWT is not as good as Google says it is.
Certainly Morfik is adament that their technology is far more sophisticated and complete
than GWT. I’m not qualified to comment on that, but it is true that Morfik has been
working on their platform for a long time – since 1999 – and so they may well have an
advantage over Google in this domain.

Future of Ajax

Now I’m no developer, so I’m expecting the programmers in R/WW’s readership to jump
into the comments and give us their views (which in my experience, are usually forthright
and sans mincing of words!). Morfik itself claims its platform is the future of how you
develop Ajax apps. According to them, the Morfik platform gives you a framework for
building controls – and not just fancy visual effects. They say it allows you to create
the “best effects possible in the browser” and that there’s “no limitation on what you
can do with ajax, but there hadn’t been a system to take advantage of that before.”

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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