Show me the money

3 minute read

To quote PC Magazine’s recent Best of the Year issue:

“One of the biggest trends in the software industry today is Web applications, exemplified by, Yahoo! Mail, and Google Maps. …I found Microsoft’s annoucement last month of its new Windows Live and Windows Office Live strategy fascinating. Microsoft is really endorsing the concepts of Web applications.”

I don’t think web applications are always the right solution, but I think more and more people are starting to view web applications as more than just dumb terminals; and yes, I do realize that Microsoft’s plan for Windows Live is potentially a “Smart Client” connected application.

Paul (who promised me a rebuttal at the Whidbey Launch event) makes a great case against web applications. And it seems we both agree that doing what works best for the end user is always the right solution. However, rather than get into a long drawn-out debate: show me the evidence for Smart Clients.

Where are all these Smart Client applications I keep reading about? Oh yeah, I guess they all start out with the same sentence, to quote Paul, “Imagine if…” Paul continues the example with, “Imagine if JC Penney decided to create an application that would let you scan in a picture of yourself and then shop for clothes by superimposing the image of the clothes onto the picture of you?” Hmmm… sounds like a Flash application to me. Think about it. We’re talking about consumers here. Are you as a consumer going to install a new Smart Client application for every online store you visit? Sure, I can imagine Smart Client applications for eBay, Amazon, and so-on but more for the power-users.

Are there Smart Client applications available today? Absolutely. Are there places where Smart Client applications are better than web applications? Absolutely (and Paul makes some excellent counter points). However, if you want me to change my mind, don’t give me theoretical examples and what-ifs. To quote a movie, “show me the money”. What whiz-bang Smart Client applications can I install now (besides the obvious, e.g. Windows Media Player, Outlook)?

To quote from my previous post on this topic, “Watching someone like my wife use a computer makes me realize that she, as a pretty typical user, does about 95% of her computer usage through the browser: hotmail,,,,, etc. The other 5% is spent in Word, but even those uses (printing cards, printing labels, etc.) could be easily replaced by a web interface. Case in point, if I bought my wife a Mac, as long as it has a web browser, she would be absolutely content.

Paul concludes with, “Do What Works Best For Them.  I’m betting it will be a smart client application.” I agree with the first sentence — and the second is a bet I’m willing to take! So how about it Paul? Loser buys lunch? How about a year from now we each list the top 10 consumer applications for 2006? The qualification being the application can exist both as a Smart Client or Web Application (runs in a browser)?

Ok, the above is all in good humored rib jabbing – Paul and I are friends after all. I want to see Smart Clients succeed too, but so far web applications (I think Web 2.0 sounds silly too Paul) seem to be more prevalent.

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