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the future of stand alone applications

Randall Twede
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Joined: Oct 21, 2000
Posts: 4347
    
    2

i accidentally posted this in the swing forum. while it is appropriate for there this is where i meant to post it.

back in 2000 when i got my first windows computer and internet access i thoght servlets and applets were the greatest thing since sliced bread.
now we also have web start.
i know most jobs(for an employer) are writing e-commerce stuff, but they won't hire me anyway.
i am into writing stand alone programs now.
i know i won't make any money at it since every concievable stand alone program already exists and usually there is a free one that surpasses what i can do.
i wrote a Paint program, but there is Gimp for free. i am now writing a word processor, but there is open office for free.
i did write a custom program one time for a plastics manufacturer($1500).
it allowed a laptop to gather information, through the serial port, from an injection molding machine.
but such are the exception.
what with web start now, what do you think about the future of stand alone(swing) apps?


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Greg Charles
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Joined: Oct 01, 2001
Posts: 2853
    
  11

I think purely monolithic, stand-alone apps are dead, and now it's just a question of how thick the client is. In everything I've done for probably ten years now, the client has been a browser. I think a good case could be made that, despite continual advancements in what can be done in a browser, there is still a need for richer and/or customized client applications. I'm not sure Swing is the answer though.
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 61420
    
  67

Randall Twede wrote:what with web start now, what do you think about the future of stand alone(swing) apps?


That's actually three questions:

  • Web Start is kind of orthogonal to the discussion. Web Start is not for web apps, but for desktop apps delivered over the web.


  • I don't think desktop apps are going anywhere soon. Sure web apps are all the hotness, but they have their limitations, and desktop apps aren't going to be dead and buried anytime soon. (And I say this as someone who's made his living writing web apps for a decade and a half.)
    Will web apps someday replace desktops apps? Perhaps. But not this week.


  • Swing, on the other hand, is not seen as a serious platform for desktop apps. There have been many discussion here that JavaFX (or even Swing) is due to "take off", but really, it ain't gonna happen.


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    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
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      67

    Greg Charles wrote:I think purely monolithic, stand-alone apps are dead


    I'll disagree. Looking at my Applications folder, I have tons of desktop apps. Even if I discounted those that are network connected, there are a lot of apps there that no web app can replace -- at least not with today's web.

    But I don't count a net-connected desktop app as a "web app". Web apps run in the browsers.
    Greg Charles
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    Joined: Oct 01, 2001
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      11

    Yes, I suppose that's true. I'd still say the majority of applications I use have some sort of network component to them. However, even though Word, for example has an online help system, can download templates and clip art, and updates itself through a network, calling it a thick client would be a stretch. What apps do you have that aren't network connected at all?
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
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      67

    Zero. Or tons.

    It depends what you call "network connected". Almost every app I know of at least has a way to check for updates.

    So we can talk about desktop apps like Dropbox, which is useless without a network connection, or Photoshop, which while it can use the net, is perfectly useful when disconnected.

    I consider any app that runs on the local system and not in a browser a desktop app, regardless of whether they need the net or not.
    Paul Anilprem
    Enthuware Software Support
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    Joined: Sep 23, 2000
    Posts: 3313
        
        7
    Web as an application delivery mechanism has been very disruptive. So I would say yes, desktop apps of the early 2000's and before have seen their prime. If you think about it, web browser is now kind of a desktop. It hosts the apps just like the start screen of the OS. What would you call an application that runs on say Google chromebook, which is an extreme web browser really.

    Java Swing was never a heavyweight in desktop application arena anyways so there is nothing much to talk about there.

    Even so, why do you think "they" won't hire you because you are into writing stand alone programs? Headless stand alone programs (middleware) will always be there. For every webapp, there is probably twice the code that runs on the back end to support that webapp. Besides that, there are libraries, infrastructure s/w, business processes....tons and tons of stuff that gets written every day.


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    Maneesh Godbole
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    Joined: Jul 26, 2007
    Posts: 10451
        
        8

    The future of stand alone applications can never be bright. After all united we stand, divided we fall.


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    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
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        5

    I add my IMHO to @Greg. I see stand alone Java/Swing applications as dying, a loser in Darwin's world. More than that, I see desktops as joining them. The world is going mobile. Which means apps that talk to some server somewhere. Probably written in Java/Dalvek. Or some new language that does it better.

    (and no, Objective-C is NOT better than Java/Dalvek).

    I see a niche world for specialized applications, say finite element analysis, CAD/CAM, that live on a powerful desktop. But for most people and most applications, a powerful desktop is not needed. Use the computer in your pocket.

    All IMHO of course.
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
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      67

    It's interesting where this is all going.

    @Pat, although the term "desktop app" has been used to describe applications that run on the local machine (as opposed to web apps that run in the browser), perhaps the term "native app" might be better to account for apps that run on mobile devices (versus desktops/laptops).

    I'd say that mobile apps are akin to desktop apps; they are both native applications -- that is, apps written for, and that run on, local hardware outside of the browser.

    So is this conversation about:
  • native apps versus web apps?
  • or
  • Desktop versus mobile?
  • or
  • Networked apps versus non-networked apps?
  • or
  • Other?


  • I think it's a conversation with about six dimensions.
    Paul Anilprem
    Enthuware Software Support
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    Joined: Sep 23, 2000
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        7
    Or consumer app versus business app.
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
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      67

    Seven.
    Pat Farrell
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        5

    I agree, the terms get pretty fuzzy. The OP's title, "stand alone app" to me says "no networking need apply" more than it means literally native apps with access to hardware (GPS, accelerometers, etc.). So that's my cut on the six dimensions -- network free.

    The obvious current home for network-free apps are games, but even there, networking is becoming more and more integral, be it for keeping high score, to in-app purchases of weapons, etc. to true multi-player games like Starcraft 2 (which is not yet on mobile, but I bet it will get there).

    I also see no future in pure "write once, run everywhere" applications that have a GUI. Swing and other packages that attempt to isolate the programmer from the OS also isolate the user from the native look-n-feel. While they always try to keep up, the OS folks are always adding new cool features that the users expect. The "stop when you look away" code on the Samsung Galaxy 4 is just a cute trick, but people are getting to expect these tricks, and a future trick will actually have value.

    In my kingdom, if you use the network, use the advanced non-PC hardware (cameras, GPS, accelerometers, etc.) and have a native look-and-feel, you have a bright future, but it ain't Swing/Java. Throw in the required cloud storage and even cloud processing, and it ain't stand-alone.
    Pat Farrell
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    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
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        5

    Paul Anilprem wrote:Or consumer app versus business app.


    I'm not sure this is a distinction that will be important long term. Could be wrong here. I would classify things like Evernote as a business oriented app. And tons of business is done using email.

    There are, of course, vertical business applications, say online inventory used in the back end of an Amazon warehouse, that have zero consumer usage. But I am seeing, as a software developer, that many of the techniques used in say game UIs are moving into what used to be called pure business apps.

    It used to be that if you asked a typical user of computers in business, they would list "Word, Excel and Powerpoint" as their main business applications. Microsoft sold a lot of copies for a lot of money directly into businesses. I argue that these three are losing their position, there are other ways to write documents, and folks are starting to consider them.
    Paul Anilprem
    Enthuware Software Support
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        7
    Pat Farrell wrote:
    Paul Anilprem wrote:Or consumer app versus business app.


    I'm not sure this is a distinction that will be important long term. Could be wrong here. I would classify things like Evernote as a business oriented app. And tons of business is done using email.

    There are, of course, vertical business applications, say online inventory used in the back end of an Amazon warehouse, that have zero consumer usage. But I am seeing, as a software developer, that many of the techniques used in say game UIs are moving into what used to be called pure business apps.

    It used to be that if you asked a typical user of computers in business, they would list "Word, Excel and Powerpoint" as their main business applications. Microsoft sold a lot of copies for a lot of money directly into businesses. I argue that these three are losing their position, there are other ways to write documents, and folks are starting to consider them.


    Yes, that's true, it is not very clear distinction but still I find this categorization to produce more distinct sets than networked-non-networked or other categorizations.

    I would say a consumer app is the app that is directly used by an individual user for his daily activities irrespective of who purchased it for them. So yes, word, email, paint, IDEs, video/games etc would be consumer apps. While business app would be something that enables a business do its business. So email server, BI tools, databases, networking, trading applications, etc. would fall in this category.

    A Standalone app can fall in either category.


    Pat Farrell
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        5

    Paul Anilprem wrote: So yes, .... IDEs ... would be consumer apps.


    Wow, I'd never put IDEs in my list of consumer apps. Only developers use them.

    I will agree that while not that long ago, IDEs would be "stand alone"; these days they all have git/cvs/svn/... built in, so networking is part of the normal workflow.
    Paul Anilprem
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        7
    Pat Farrell wrote:
    Paul Anilprem wrote: So yes, .... IDEs ... would be consumer apps.


    Wow, I'd never put IDEs in my list of consumer apps. Only developers use them.

    I will agree that while not that long ago, IDEs would be "stand alone"; these days they all have git/cvs/svn/... built in, so networking is part of the normal workflow.

    Well, it is a cosumer app with a small consumer base I think it is how an app is controlled and used rathar than the number of users.
    Pat Farrell
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        5

    Paul Anilprem wrote:Well, it [IDEs] is a consumer app with a small consumer base I think it is how an app is controlled and used rather than the number of users.


    Then I'd propose adding another dimension to our space. When I think of a consumer app, I think of something that you buy, put the CD in, or download, and run it as the authors designed it. Something that the consumer uses. Not something that the end-user modifies, customizes, etc. Obviously this is another fuzzy area. Consider Lightroom or Photoshop. Most people just use them. They use them in creative ways, but most users use 100% of the code that Adobe wrote. But both packages allow plug-ins, and the plugins are simply subroutines written by someone besides Adobe. They can change how the application works. Most IDEs and some browsers also support plug-ins.

    BTW, both Lightroom and Photoshop are mostly "stand alone" applications, but both know how to talk to the cloud, both to get updates and to store photos for sharing.
    Randall Twede
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    Joined: Oct 21, 2000
    Posts: 4347
        
        2

    i just spent 20 minutes responding to this post and it got wiped out. i cant go through it all again. i just thank you all for your interest in my topic. especially Paul and Pat.(and you too Bear)
     
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