The Old Blog Archive, 2005-2009

The Desktop

Despite the talk in the past few years about the future that belongs to the web app, desktop app has also evolved. The umbrella term “usability” becomes the new focus for desktop app developers. And even if gmail is great, there will always be times when offline (that is client-side) mail reading is desirable.

I attended this year’s Apple WWDC. Apple seems to have a clear view about the market segmentation. Namely, there are actually three, not two, separate areas, or platforms, on which software apps compete: desktop, web, and media. The desktop is still the center around which things happen. Talk about thin client or terminals didn’t really materialize (some of the ideas found a way into the media platform though). Desktop is about responsiveness, capacity and device connectivity (something that web is definitely not [1]). Web, as we all know it, is about ubiquity, zero configuration, quick deployment (from an app developer’s point of view). The media platform is somewhat more tricky as it’s more diverse, but from Apple’s point of view, handsets, PSP, setboxes all belong to this category. This is something that used to be the game of appliance makers, but apparently during the past decade traditional PC software makers (Microsoft, needless to say, but also many more) have noticed this development, and they have been unleashing their technological prowess into this arena.

For the time being, though, Wil Shipley (the Chief Monster of Delicious Monster)’s comment is the most succint. While tons of money is needed for building a mass web service (as software application per se; another story with web services that function as platform for something else, like selling books), only the biggest players get something. Now, desktop software market may seem small (and Mac independent software market is even smaller), but it seems that survival is more attainable.

One assuring thing is that the ecological system of software is big enough that, if you’re good, it’s not hard to have a pie. The rise of web apps doesn’t need to mean the decline of all desktop apps (and, frankly, I can’t really think of any desktop app that went undone by a web app equivalent).

What’s better, the rise of web APIs (not Web OS–rather, programmable web is the way) should only make desktop apps better and stronger. Now everything old is anew again. A good news for desktop app developers.

[1] One must remember the reason Windows is such a big player is that it has accommodated and created a whole industry: the peripherals. Even Apple’s computers nowadays use standardized devices and the company is trying to make it easy to develop device drivers. For all the talk about Web OS–which I think is a non-topic–this is something clearly missing. Honestly, though, when and how many app developers ever cared about system programming issues?

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