Friday, September 8th, 2006

WebOS Versus Webified Desktops

Category: Editorial

ReadWriteWeb takes on Webtops in an article that has gained traction in the blogosphere. the following downsides are noted:

  • Works at the mercy of the network and the server load.
  • While the many enabling capabilities of network-based storage architectures are of
    substantial value – issues of authentication, access control, and security/privacy of the
    stored data remain. Are you going to let someone else handle your data? Would you trust a
    startup to protect your critical data? [Ed: for an interesting side argument, see this discussion of
    IBM’s SoulPad from a year ago]
  • The privacy, control, reliability and performance issues prevent the WebOS from
    being an alternative to the ever-more-affordable and easy-to-use desktop.
  • WebOS requires a fast and reliable (if not flawless) connection to
    work correctly.
  • Inability to operate peripheral devices.
  • Web applications rely on open source infrastructure and an array
    of technologies and formats – and these are constantly changing, often with no
    regard for being backwards compatible.

Another issue for webtops is the lack of context. Unless there’s a plugin involved, they can’t record the user’s surfing patterns, so the user has to be more explicit in customizing the interface, and more diligent in maintaining it.

The article goes on to mention some internet-connected desktop apps, like ITunes, Second Life, and Excel 2007, suggesting that a better direction is to improve the desktop. While these are indeed good examples that illustrate the power of a connection desktop app, they can hardly be compared directly to just the webtop category. problems. Webtops are hardly a proxy for all “Web 2.0” – or Ajax – applications, as the article seems to imply. Comparing Web 2.0 to the desktop would have to involve a more detailed consideration of the Office wannabees, web-based aggregators, and online music managers, for starters.

Anyway, the article offers a worthy reminder that connected apps do not have to run inside a browser. One further issue is the interaction between connected apps and web apps … there’s no reason why a word-processor, for example, can’t run on both platforms, connected to the same data source.

Posted by Michael Mahemoff at 2:08 am
3 Comments

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There are many cross browser issues with basic HTML, CSS and JavaScript which become obvious in webtops. For IE you can create custom ActiveX or use ActiveXObject(“Scripting.FileSystemObject”) and ActiveXObject(“WScript.Shell”) to have a powerful webtops … But what’s the point?
Technology is works best if you have the least amount of barriers / layers between you and what you want. Web applications gives you what you want with out the hassle of any OS related issues, but webtops goes into the opposite direction. Webified desktops on the other hand have more potential.

Comment by Tahir — September 8, 2006

I get the feeling that this article was written by someone who has stock options with Microsoft. The truth is webbased desktop are just the next step in the internet being the application.

In the next few years, broadband will be absolutely everywhere, and in many cases, free. Having a network slow down or outage, will only be as common as a blackout in your area. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the power right!

The author of this article in my opinion doesn’t understand that the web based desktop isn’t optional. It’s going to happen, and as developers we must either embrace it, or be rendered obsolete.

The issues mentioned while serious, will easily be overcome. Additional nodes adds server capacity, data even on a nas or storage already has privileges and rights assigned to it, so I don’t see where the author gets the issues of authentication. He must be stuck in a microsoft world, because as far as I know, linux and Unix both have strong authentication built right into the os from forever. The issue of trusting startups is really grasping at straws.

The internet society just like the real world, while a dangerous place to be is built on different levels of trust. You won’t trust a start up website, but you’ll trust the clerk in a gas station you’ve never been to before to not make fraud on your credit card?

The listed bullets are just petty wish thinking about slowing down what will be and what is the internet revolution.

Comment by PuReWebDev — September 8, 2006

PuReWebDev; I agree with you that web based applications is the future. Though I am not equally certain about Microsoft’s agenda… Why?

The OS’s Windows 95 and forward contains portions solved with web technologies such as DHTML. For instance, (at least) in Win2000, if you customize a folder, a hidden file is added to the folder and the customizations were declared and interpreted with HTML + CSS and even Javascript (I don’t remember all the details). Furthermore, in my humble opinion, Microsoft introduced very early technologies, even if proprietary, not necessarily needed in regular web development.

For a long time, I thought that these were preparations for migration to web based platform/OS or whatever you want to call it… I don’t know what Microsoft’s agenda was then or what it is now, but surely it is strange and they either seem to have lost focus or they just lost the brains behind the strategy. Regardless, I think it’s a mistake to summarize Microsoft’s behaviour to fast.

Thanks…

Comment by Hakan Bilgin — September 9, 2006

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