Shhh… hey fatso over here!
There’s something going on… I know about it first hand, because today while using my iPhone I willingly accepted Digg’s suggestion to download their mobile application. When I saw this, I actually thought cool, I’ll get a much better user experience then the standard browser. But then it dawned on me. I’m actually happy to download an application – a fat client – albeit a little slimmer because it’s for the iPhone, but nevertheless a fat client! A little over five years ago desktop applications were dead or dying. Firstly, nobody wanted the maintenance overhead of application roll-outs, versions, etc, plus everybody was going Cloud. Even Google started offering their OpenOffice stuff on the Internet so you didn’t need any desktop application.
But somehow, desktop and iPhone, or iPad for that matter, don’t mean the same thing. Somehow through a slight wave of the hand Apple have convinced us that “Yes, this is the application you want to download”, and in some cases, “Yes, this is the small fee you want to pay”. Nobody has really cottoned onto the fact that we’re happily downloading little Fatty clients and blissfully don’t care because the local apps provide a much richer and exciting user experience. So what’s going on here? And, why have we suddenly gone full circle?
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons has to do with software distribution. Not so long ago, everybody, namely the I.T. operations staff would groan and moan if there was another desk-top application to roll-out, especially if it involved thousands, and often tens of thousands of desktops globally, which in turn would require installation scripts that wouldn’t always work, users complaining that something was broken, and so on and so forth. And, the operations staff were not alone. Developers too would try and avoid desktop applications all together. Webapps were the rage. Of course you had and still have browser compatibility issues, but it’s a lot easier to maintain then desktop apps.
Things are different now. Those installation and maintenance problems are replaced by a simple button that says “Download”. The filesystem and all those low level complexities are shielded from the user (so they can’t mess up the install). All one has to do is go to the iTunes Store, select the application they want, pay or get it free and within a minute or two, viola. No problemo. If the iPhone or iPad application needs an upgrade, then a simple notification appears and again with a simple press of the button the app is upgraded.
So Apple are ushering in a new era of thick-clients, it’s a comeback of Travolta proportions, and with hundreds of thousands of online applications out there already, it’s serious business. Now the point to all this isn’t a celebration of Apple awesomeness, it’s about recognising a shift in the I.T. industry from pure Webapps to Thick-clients. Now some of you purists out there may argue that the iPhone and iPad apps aren’t really thick-clients but so what. The point is that whether you like Apple or not, or believe the iTunes Store is the best thing ever, or a unfair monopoly – the point of the matter is that the future of the Web is changing. And, it’s happening right before our eyes, and if you’re in the business of online business or Webapps, then you better start rethinking your strategy.
Think about it. Doesn’t user experience and customer satisfaction play a big role in the success of your eBusiness strategy? Wouldn’t you want to offer an Online UX that takes your eBusiness products and services to your customers front door-step?**
Oh, and one last thing… given that this is the future of the Web and Apple have taken a big bite out of it, makes a lot more sense why Steve Jobs wouldn’t want Flash crowding their style…
** What’s the bet your competitor will be thinking about it…