Brent Simmons: The end of "desktop vs. web apps"

I love this post by Brent Simmons about the rise of hybrid desktop/web applications. Too many Web 2.0 geeks pretend there’s a battle between web apps and desktops apps, but what’s really happening is that web apps and desktop apps are converging.

Web apps are mimicking desktop-like UIs and finding ways to store data offline; desktop apps are embedding browser-like UIs and finding ways to seamlessly synchronize data between different locations. We’re entering a hybrid world where the line between the desktop and the web is blurring.

5 thoughts on “Brent Simmons: The end of "desktop vs. web apps"

  1. This is the exact point I think most “Web 2.0″-ers don’t get. We don’t want everything to be online all the time, but we also don’t want to always be limited to the desktop, either!
    for instance, take the web office apps – Something like Google Office or Windows Office Live is fine IMHO for non-critical group collaboration or for an individual putting something together to share with the world at large, but I will never, ever consider using mission-critical or confidential documents with an online office app, no matter how secure I’m told it is – it’s just not going to happen, and I’m pretty sure most people feel the same way.
    However, I have finally seen the light on social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us (within the past two weeks – so I’m 2 years behind or so, eh :) ), especially since I’m working with two different versions of IE (plus the FD embedded browser :) ), Opera, Firefox and 3 different operating systems – there’s no way I can keep a consistent set of bookmarks/favorites with all of that – I NEED to be able to bookmark sites to a central location for use no matter where I am or what browser/OS combo I’m using.
    While these examples are anecdotal in nature, I do think they illustrate the point you’re making, Nick.
    Convergence is a term that’s been kicked around for a while, in different forms. I used to work for Gateway in the late 90s and when I got there in ’97 they were talking computer/TV convergence and had a 36″ monitor to use as both a TV and a monitor, so you could use it in your living room entertainment center. Although they were way too early with the concept – XP MCE was almost 7 or 8 years away, and there were some typical Gateway errors in execution (like that 36” CRT only having a maximum 800×600 resolution!), they had the right idea and vision. It’s only a matter of time before (maybe sooner now that Apple TV is out) it’s more common than not to find a media center in the living room. In the intervening time since those halcyon Gateway days, convergence in the computer world has grown to encompass the internet as well, so now the living room computer is also a wireless hub with internet access, and it only makes sense that not only are the computer and the home entertainment worlds converging, but the online and offline worlds as well.

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  2. “Something like Google Office or Windows Office Live is fine IMHO for non-critical group collaboration or for an individual putting something together to share with the world at large”
    Well, 6 months ago, naysayers would say those online offerings were good for nothing. Now that they say it’s good for something, I am anxious to know what they’ll say in 6 months.
    Google is making constant updates to their offerings, while Microsoft is on 3-year release cycles. Office 14, the release after Office 2007, is already known for being a simple upgrade to the existing offering, not something that will wow you.
    And that’s without mentioning all the new online scenarios that are enabled. All those apps that can mashup things from places by using the WEB 2.0 plumbing (Ajax, json, …), not the 20-year old Microsoft OLE/COM/WIN32 plumbing.
    “I will never, ever consider using mission-critical or confidential documents with an online office app, no matter how secure I’m told it is”
    That’s what you don’t get. Google will probably start selling an appliance for corporate people.
    “However, I have finally seen the light on social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us (…) I NEED to be able to bookmark sites to a central location for use no matter where I am or what browser/OS combo I’m using.”
    IMHO, what you need is a central place where you can get this stuff checked in and checked out, and from where you can take your things and go whenever you want. For instance, an OPML export.

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  3. “That’s what you don’t get. Google will probably start selling an appliance for corporate people.”
    I get that all right – as a matter of fact Google’s been selling search appliances for years. But if they were to sell an office suite appliance, for instance, no corporation worth its salt would purchase it if it didn’t have the ability to restrict document creation/usage to inside the corporate structure. I also think that is a great idea – but it better not try to “phone home” to the Google mothership with said document data.
    This is the point I’m trying to make – no corporation would be willing to allow its sensitive documents to be stored somewhere where it doesn’t have complete control over the data – and the Internet, no matter how “secure”, ain’t that place, so, no, I can’t see where 100% web-hosted applications will completely supplant traditional local apps. Again, it’s going to be a blend of both online and offline that will be successful. Now if you were to say that the technologies that POWER the web (AJAX, etc) were to be used in a corporate environment, I can see that.
    “IMHO, what you need is a central place where you can get this stuff checked in and checked out, and from where you can take your things and go whenever you want. For instance, an OPML export.”
    Hmm? Del.icio.us IS a central place for what I need – no need to check anything in or out – they’re all available as I need them.

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  4. To say that Web Apps and Desktop Apps are converging is most appropriate. I just read an article that I discovered on http://www.webnewsblog.org/ that tells about Wells Fargo Bank, and it’s move to Web 2.0 with cell phone apps, web apps, desktop ap[ps, and even moving into the Second Life arena. Very good read!

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