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Rich client are so 90

Hussein Baghdadi
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Hi.
In the world of "rich" web applications (Ajax, Seam and GWT for example), do you think that the rich clients still has a future ?
Thanks.
Romain Guy
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Definitely. Web apps are better than they've ever been but they still have lots of problems. Performance and responsiveness in particular. Local storage (even though Google Gears helps... as long as you're not using Safari) is also a big issue. And we are dependent on our web browsers which have never been the most stable applications. Did you ever experience a browser crash? And discovered you lost the 4 tabs you had opened, thus losing the two emails you were writing? Sure, local apps are not immune to this either, but one app going down will not bring everything else with it.

I am convinced that web apps and local apps are meant to coexist peacefully. While I found stupid to do everything on the web it would also be foolish not to use the power of the web and remain on our desktops. Services like Apple's .Mac are the right way to go I think. They give you a great web mail and a great local email client that both use the same data. At home, you can use the rich client to get a better experience. When you're away you can still use your mail, you just need a web browser.

Finally, some applications will remain very difficult to put in a web browser. Applications like Office, Photoshop or our IDEs don't work that well in browsers. Sure, there are dumbed down versions that exist as web apps and while they are good enough to basic usage, professional might not agree to forget all the cool features of their rich clients.
Barry Andrews
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I think your basic workplace desktop apps like MS Word, Powerpoint, Excel, email clients, financial apps, etc. are going to stay on the desktop forever. No company in their right mind is going to rely on something like google documents just for security reasons alone. I agree with Romain that desktop and rich web clients will co-exist. There is a place for each.
Hussein Baghdadi
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Sure but the margin of rich clients is becoming smaller, right?
Romain Guy
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I don't think so. Today what are the applications you use online every day? I use way more rich clients than webapps.
Hussein Baghdadi
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Today what are the applications you use online every day?

Well, let me see:
GMail, Google Maps, Flickr, weblogs (just to name few)....
Romain Guy
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That illustrates my point very well. Aside from Gmail, none of those apps are applications you would have used locally anyway. Because their point is to be online. What applications are you using online today that you used to use locally? Mail for some of us (I personally cannot stand Gmail and its ugly, ugly UI), sometimes collaboration tools (like Google Docs, although they are far from fulfilling the all the needs of Office/OpenOffice/whatever users) and that's pretty much it. Even IM clients, which exist as webapps are still mostly used a rich clients (Windows Live Messenger or Apple's iChat for instance.)

I am convinced that web apps brought us NEW applications and made a few other easier to use (like email for some people; at least those who don't need to access it offline on a laptop.) The desktop is FANTASTIC for many applications (especially heavy duty apps like Photoshop, that I use daily.) And the web is FANTASTIC for many **other sorts of applications**.

Both coexist today, both have strength and weaknesses and both will probably keep on coexisting for a few years, at least until we get more robust runtime solutions for web-based applications and ubiquitous Internet connectivity.

Also remember that many web apps spawned their equivalent on the desktop. For instance, I use ecto on my desktop write, publish and edit my blog posts because it works a lot faster, brings more features and lets me unify 3 different blogs. Another example is FlickrExport, a simple standalone app that I use to publish my photos on Flickr. The web version of the uploader is just too time-consuming and annoying for what I do with Flickr. Or what about Vista's gadgets and Mac OS X's widgets? Most of them are rich clients for web services/web apps.

In the end, users will prefer the app that costs the less and works the best. Be it a webapp or a desktop app, I'm not sure they will really care. I don't.
Hussein Baghdadi
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Mail for some of us (I personally cannot stand Gmail and its ugly, ugly UI)

I think this Google philosophy, simple interface and very powerful services.
Romain Guy
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A simple user interface does not mean it should be ugly And Gmail gets it very wrong in some places. Think about the keyboard shortcuts they chose. It's great to skim through mail with the keyboard... but with VI shortcuts? The shortcuts J and K to go up and down for instance just don't make sense. This is a perfect example of a UI designed by engineers who care about engineers.

By the way, I work for Google
Hussein Baghdadi
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By the way, I work for Google

Assuming it is ok to ask, does Google employ rich desktop clients?
[ September 19, 2007: Message edited by: John Todd ]
Romain Guy
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To cite a few: Google Earth, Google Desktop, Gtalk, Picasa...
Hussein Baghdadi
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To cite a few: Google Earth, Google Desktop, Gtalk, Picasa...

One tiny question.
Are these applications Java desktop apps?
Romain Guy
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Unfortunately no And this is a shame because most of those apps are not available from Google for Windows and Linux and OS X.
Gregg Bolinger
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Originally posted by Romain Guy:
Unfortunately no And this is a shame because most of those apps are not available from Google for Windows and Linux and OS X.


In fact, isn't Google Earth written in QT? I thought that was an interesting API choice.

I pretty much agree with everything Romain has said. I don't mind GMail's "ugliness" because I think it stays simpler that way. I have found myself using Google Docs a bit more and I noticed they added a Slide Show (PPT) module. It's nice for quick and dirty things especially when you might not be on your usual PC and you don't care about privacy.

But these online apps can't compare to MS Office, OpenOffice, etc in terms of features or performance. Like Romain has said, there's room for both. The trick as a developer is knowing what is the appropriate fit for your project.


GenRocket - Experts at Building Test Data
Romain Guy
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Remember that Google Earth was bought and not created by Google. It used to be called Keyhole or something like this.
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
 
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