Given all the attention being devoted to Web-based applications, and all the hoopla around the web-desktop hybrid apps, I got together with Niall Kennedy to record the latest episode of Om & Niall PodSesssions, to ruminate on the question: are desktop applications are really dead. We […]

Given all the attention being devoted to Web-based applications, and all the hoopla around the web-desktop hybrid apps, I got together with Niall Kennedy to record the latest episode of Om & Niall PodSesssions, to ruminate on the question: are desktop applications are really dead. We don’t think they are, mostly because the beefier desktops (and notebooks) mean that you can do a lot of cool things with the processing power at our disposal now. You can download the podcast here, and while you are waiting for the file download to finish, take this easy poll. Paul Kedrosky disagrees with Mike Rundle’s response in the comments section.

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  1. Desktop apps are for production, browser-based apps are for working with data. Not many journalists or venture capitalists actually “produce” things (design in Photoshop or Illustrator, 3D renderings in Maya, streaming video effects in After Effects, live audio production, audio mixing, software via heavy-duty IDEs, etc.) so therefore it’s not really a surprise to me to see so many in the Valley proclaim desktop-apps to be dead.

    Tasks that take little to no toll on a processor (viewing and editing data, whether that data is calendar appointments, text documents, etc.) can be taken off the desktop and onto the web, and these are the apps we’re seeing. We’ll never see design, audio, or video professionals use web-based versions of the applications they use to PRODUCE things because that’s totally impractical and ridiculous.

  2. I agree mike, i think as long as stuff needs to be made, i think the desktop lives. there is the aspect of new edge applications – as we point out in our podcast like skype – that leverage the processing power we will not see the end of the desktop applications.

    the flip side is that most new users (read people not in the PC dominated countries) will find web/mobile applications as the way to go. not your classic apps but new kind of apps.

    still interesting times…

  3. I agree with you both…

    Desktop applications are FAR from being dead. Until gaming and intense applications can manage to run via the web, desktop applications will still have a place. Perhaps in the next +15 years we will see consumer grade T3’s or OC3’s and enterprise level quantum computing that will allow streaming of intense applications.

    With that said, I think Microsoft will eventually be seen as the O/S for production and gaming – NOT as the general home user or productivity platform that it is now.

    Can anyone say free thin-client hardware from your telecom, with pay-for-OS services?

  4. Nitin Nanivadekar Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Desktop applications running as SmartClients was a good idea that came with .Net. But as It is believed Vista will not come preloaded with .Net there is a question over this technology.

  5. Even the same though came to my mind a few months back. Nonetheless, when some thought went into this, I found that it would be rather premature articulation to pronounce the death of desktop apps. There is still a long, long way to go before we can ever start thinking of the death of desktop apps.

    I second Robert Dewey’s comment here and Nitin too has a point to ponder upon.

  6. Startups.in/India Sunday, September 10, 2006

    I’d prefer desktop based apps for handling personal/sensitive data and web based apps for mostly collaborative work.

  7. I have more applications after the age of the web and web 2.0 not less.

    IN the consumer client space … You still need good ol thick client software for most consumer apps. No web based app is going to replace iTunes anytime soon. Or creativity as mentioned before.

    Business apps however will be going completely web based because as mentioned before they are information based. Also they are by nature client-server. Such apps are better off on the web. Putting them on the web makes it easier to maintain and a whole other set of benefits which have been beaten to death.

  8. No, and they won’t be dead, on the contrary, when everybody’s putting rotating throbbers in their apps and using AJAX to emulate the desktop feeling…oh wait, I said “emulate the desktop feeling”.

    The right question would be: Are Desktop apps for LessThanAverage Joe dead?

    Yeah, he might be more comfortable with that ridiculously simple rich text component than with Word, or with Google’s Spreadsheets app than Excel just because they apply the “KISS” principle or “less is more”, so they get rid of the bloat. Add some collaboration, a “beta” label, some buzz and venture and we’re set.

    Still, you are soooo limited by the HTML fiasco. While desktop apps are limited by the hardware/OS layers only, the web apps are living in a messy wild jungle of HTML/Javascript/Compatibility/BrowserWars/StoneAge era.

    There was a nice quote on bash.org:
    “-Name me one thing a mac can’t do compared to a PC
    – Um…Right click?”

    The same goes with this technology.
    You can’t even print correctly, but hey, I’ll wait for a another article with a rethorical title “Are the printed documents dead?” :)


  9. Michael Kamleitner Monday, September 11, 2006

    I’ve tried out lots of web-office-apps (http://nonsmokingarea.com/blog/tags/office-is-dead), and honestly, most are very far from being able to replace their desktop-equivalents.

    however, there is very big potential in the collaborative field (writely, jotspot…are quite promising in this area). I don’t get why Microsoft hasn’t included low-profile (=without the need for expensive microsoft-server-software), web-based collaboration into office for years…they could have dominated this market way before we all fell for AJAX…I’ld love full-featured desktop apps fully integrated into some kind of collaboration-web-service…

  10. Right now it seems people are bringing traditional desktop-based apps over to the web but what about the other way around? Why not bring some cool web functionality/interactivity to the desktop? Apple Dashboard Widgets and Konfabulator/Yahoo Widgets allow just this (running full-blown XHTML/CSS/JS apps on the desktop) so I think the next stage would be to allow users to get the web data they want without even opening their browser. Targeted, practical, functional widgets that give users the dashboard-like information they get from their favorite sites or RSS aggregators.

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