Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Microsoft LiveFX: Apps that look like a browser

Category: .NET

Regardless of whether you’re in the Google camp or in the Microsoft camp, I think it’s a fair statement to say that these differences of viewpoint accurately reflect each company’s core strength and focus: Google wants the browser to grow to subsume the desktop; Microsoft wants the desktop to grow to subsume the cloud.

This was the concluding paragraph in a post by Danny Thorpe of Microsoft (and formerly Google).

His post is itself a rebuttal on Dare’s article: Live Framework (LiveFX), Is it Microsoft’s GData or Something More?:

A number of LiveFX’s additional features such as synchronization and resource introspection which have no analog in GData are fairly interesting and I wouldn’t be surprised to see these ideas get further traction in the industry. On the flip side, the client-side Live Operating Environment is a technology whose benefits elude me. I admit it is kind of cool but I can’t see its utility.

Danny answers:

The answer, in a word, is “offline.”

The local Live Operating Environment (local LOE) is what makes running mesh-enabled web applications on the desktop, outside the browser, possible. The local LOE creates and manages a sandboxed execution environment for the mesh app, just like a browser would for an HTML+JavaScript or Silverlight application but without the browser UI frame looming overhead.

It seems like a trivial thing, whether or not the browser frame surrounds your app UI. Does it matter? The answer is yes – having your app surrounded by browser UI constantly and forcibly reminds the user that this isn’t a real app, it’s just a web page with lipstick.

The Live Framework local LOE is a client application that works like a browser. It may even create an instance of the browser internally (I don’t know the internal details of the LOE) but it is fundamentally treated as “not the browser.”

I am trying to wrap my mind around this all myself :)

Posted by Dion Almaer at 5:04 am

2.6 rating from 56 votes


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So… they created their own ‘Adobe Air’ !??

I wonder how that meeting went…
1: “Hey! Adobe made something with widgets that get on the desktop!”
2: “Phuh! We already have that! It’s called Active Desktop!”
1: “Nowai! We killed the Active Desktop in XP !”
2: “Omfg! We need to act quick! Lock in our customers or we’ll lose them!”
1: “Let’s just mimic them, create a new XML dialect and tie it up to the .Net framework and Siverlight and everything else we have!”
2: “Good idea! Get to work!”

Comment by SchizoDuckie — November 20, 2008

I agree with that 37Signals blog post; “You’re not on a xxxxing plane, and if you were it doesn’t matter”…
I am dead sure about that this whole “offline” debate has gone WAY too long for WAY too much time. After I got an iPhone I can’t even *remember* the last time I didn’t have internet…
So either I am dead xxxxing stupid or I am (practically) alone in seeing the truth…

Comment by ThomasHansen — November 20, 2008

“having your app surrounded by browser UI constantly and forcibly reminds the user that this isn’t a real app, it’s just a web page with lipstick”

I can’t disagree more. A web app is as real as anything that I install on my pc. How can my gmail web interface be less real than my Thunderbird client? Or a game that I play on the internet less real than anything I run from Start, Programs? Furthermore there are very little things that I do on my pc that I would do without an Internet connection.

Oh well, but I’m in the business of web apps and other guys are in the business of desktop OSes. Maybe that’s why we look at the world in different ways and we want different things to succeed.

Comment by pmontrasio — November 20, 2008

HTA “applications” in Internet Explorer provided some of the same. Very easy to use.

Comment by torerik — November 20, 2008

A browser UI reminds a user that they are in full control and not that application. Microsoft has had HTML Applications since Windows 95 I believe but they just left it there to collect dust. You know how hard it is to “install” a browser web application? F6 -> gmail -> Ctrl+Enter. Now I’m using the latest version of the program.
How often does you internet honestly go offline? And even if it does, if the application was primarily client code it can store information in the Client Storage and keep trucking once things go offline.

Comment by TNO — November 20, 2008

They make it sound like running a web app outside of a browser window is some OMG new technology that’s never been done before.

Might I introduce them to PRISM? Heck, I’ve been running Gmail as a standalone app in Prism on Ubuntu for ages now. It even has it’s own little “OMG, just like a real app” launcher. I don’t even have to open up a web browser to use it!

These folks need a clue if they think they’re giving us something new for running web apps without browser “chrome”.

Comment by Henaway — November 20, 2008

Poor choice in headlines. I said the local Live Operating Environment *works* like a browser, not that applications that run in the local LOE *look* like a browser.


Comment by dannythorpe — November 20, 2008

Microsoft’s recent History of “innovation”:
Google -> Live Search
Screenlets/Google Widgets/etc -> Vista Sidebar
Flash -> Silverlight
Amazon S3 -> Windows ‘Cloud’
Prism/Air -> LOE

Impressive R&D team they got there.

Comment by tj111 — November 20, 2008

@tj111: And you know how much that matters? Not a bit.

Oh, us geeks will point and snicker and go “Microsoft doesn’t innovate, they just copy what others do”. We don’t matter as much as you think though.

Here’s the problem: if what MS offers is better, or is at least close to good enough that their marketing team (read: bullies) can get businesses to choose them over the alternatives then it doesn’t matter where the idea came from except to us geeks.

And don’t forget, tons of businesses out there freely *CHOOSE* Microsoft technologies without any sort of underhanded tactics going on. Some people actually think MS produce are some great products.

I mean, just look at your list… ok, Google rocks Live Search, but is the Vista sidebar better than Google Widgets? Many would say yes (I prefer Yahoo Widgets myself over both, but I digress). It’s still too early to tell, but I know lots of folks who are very impressed with Silverlight at this point. Windows Cloud has potential, whether it bests S3 or not remains to be seen… LOE is brand new and Air seems to be doing pretty well, so that can’t be called yet.

My point is that MS is actually putting out some decent, viable competitors right now, so whether they are original ideas or not doesn’t matter much in the final analysis. If the world moves to Silverlight en mass for instance, nobody but us geeks will remember or care that MS ripped off Adobe shamelessly to create it. I think we often times get hung up on who innovated and who didn’t. We all build on the shoulders of giants, that’s the way it works. I think we should only care if a given product wins out on its merits or not, that’s all that matters (and that’s clearly a separate, larger topic for discussion where MS is involved!).

Comment by fzammetti — November 20, 2008

It would be nice to see who wins this war, the Browser or the Desktop!

Comment by HostingITrust — December 9, 2008

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