The Big Convergence: web apps for desktop, desktop apps for web, mobile apps for web, web apps for mobile…

08Feb09
Application convergence - The players

Application convergence - The players

You want to offer a service to your customers, let’s say that you want to browse your images and selecting them before printing them.

It sounds normal that you can do this via several platforms in the same way: we can use a desktop App like Picasa, ACDSee. Normally faster and checks out all your images on your computer.

Or why not use an online version using Cooliris or Flickr. While on the move we could use the build in iPhone app to check the images we synced from our computer. Or PhotoMesa for PocketPC.

Or maybe use a third paty web app on Facebook to see your images easier.

This in total will add up to a huge development bill to make your service available to all those platforms. 

The browser as the platform

But there are solutions too. Use the browser as the platform for applications and let Adobe, Google and Microsoft bear the costs of development for all those platforms. Adobe is working on Adobe Air, Google on Google Gears, Microsoft on Silverlight.

We are on the way but still far off, Flash doesn’t offer all the tools needed for the more advanced apps, Google gears has a very limited market penetration and the same for Silverlight. On top of that you still need to have Flash, Google Chrome or Silverlight installed. True, Flash has a market penetration that the others can only hope for but it’s limitations too. And they are still not that fast as the desktop apps. Try organizing a long list of emails in a web app…

Let’s say that we reach an acceptable level in a few years. Does that solve it all?  

The desktop  as the platform

Desktop apps are way faster, more intuitive for more complex apps and from usability point of view more in line with the way your are used to work. But they always come with a huge download size, an annoying installation procedure and try taking it to another computer and install it again…Ah and yes, start from scratch the moment you want to offer your service to Apple users.

This market has been dormant all this time? I would say yes, with the exeption of one format called U3. But try using it once and you will understand this won’t be a big player.  

The Solution: The multi portable desktop app

Just a bit of mixing and matching would do the trick: Take the speed of the desktop app, the connectivity of the web apps and make it all work together. Practically speaking? Make a small desktop app in order to optimize the speed and load all data from the web. Sounds like Adobe Air isn’t it? Yes, but what are users more used to: Installing Adobe Air (Huh? Is that something with oxygen…) or running an .exe (yes, you better get a Verisign certification).

For the moment I would bet on the .exe but in the mean time I hope Adobe will get a better market/platform penetration and offer the same flexibility a desktop app offers so that we can offer our services to whatever platform there may be out there. (including in-web apps)

> Download Adobe Air

Related links:
> Portable software U3
> Adobe Air
> Microsoft Silverlight

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2 Responses to “The Big Convergence: web apps for desktop, desktop apps for web, mobile apps for web, web apps for mobile…”

  1. 1 Jan Snelders

    Hey Remko!

    Long time no see! Everything ok there?

    What about Java? Java offers all you need and more (with Java Web Start/JavaFX). Java’s market penetration is excellent, it’s proven technology and it’s one of the fastest platforms around
    (really; have a look at: http://shootout.alioth.debian.org/).
    In comparison to Adobe AIR or Silverlight, Java is more open; You will not be restricted to one vendor whenever you start building on top of Java.

    By the way; if you are interested in technology that mixes the browser and the platform you might also be interested in Mozilla’s XUL.

    • 2 Remko Vermeulen

      Good to see you here!
      Java would be a great choice if it wouldn’t bother you with massive updates it autoloads.
      Besides that I man ot so sure about the market penetration of Java. Javascript has for us a 97% penetration, but Java runtime? No data available…


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