RIA Platform Provider Curl Partners with Sonata

RIA platform vendor forms new partnership, aims at U.S. market.

As new vendors continue to elbow their way into the increasingly crowded rich Internet application (RIA) market, one of the oldest RIA platform companies that's been focusing mainly on Asian markets is forming an alliance to increase its visibility in the United States.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Curl Inc., maker of the Curl RIA platform, is joining forces with Sonata Software Ltd., a Bangalore, India-based systems integrator, the companies announced recently. As part of the agreement, Sonata will provide development and deployment consulting services to users of the Curl RIA platform, while Curl will provide Sonata with enabling technology for its growing RIA practice.

Curl is also the name of a programming language developed at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science specifically for interactive Web content. The company's products are based on research from that project. The Curl language combines HTML, scripting and languages such as Java and C#. It's supported by a wide range of companies, including Microsoft.

The company Curl has positioned itself exclusively for enterprise organizations, and mainly for business-to-business RIA apps, rather than business-to-consumer, says Jeffrey Hammond, senior analyst in Forrester Research Inc.'s application development practice. Curl is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese IT services company Sumisho Computer Systems Corp., and, to date, has focused primarily on Asian markets. Enterprise IT organizations in Japan and Korea are currently the biggest commercial Curl users.

"That's why we tend not to hear as much about them as an option here in the United States," Hammond says.

But the Curl RIA platform stacks up well against the competition, Hammond says, which now includes Microsoft's Silverlight, Adobe Systems Inc.'s Apollo and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s JavaFX. Curl's particular focus is on managing large datasets. It has its own graphics primitives and more advanced controls, such as charting and graphing. It takes advantage of a larger runtime, which allows for a more extensive set of libraries on the client. Consequently, the amount of code tends to be less, as does the amount of information traversing the wire, Hammond says.

Another advantage of Curl also turns out to be a disadvantage: Because the platform is based on a single language, developers have a more consistent programming environment with no mixing of multiple languages and tag types. On the other hand, Hammond points out, developers have to learn that language.

The Sonata deal is likely to help the company with its existing customer base, Hammond says, but he doubts it will do much to lift the company above the burgeoning pack of RIA players. "I think they need a ubiquity play as well as an enterprise play to gain scale and reach in the market," he says.

Curl joins what industry analyst Ray Valdes, research director in Gartner Inc's Internet platforms and Web services group, has called a "platform war" fueled by a surge of vendors in the RIA space. Gartner predicts that IT managers and enterprises will have to deal with fragmented platforms for rich media within browsers for some time.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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