Srinivas Reddy’s Weblog

My Tech Rants

‘What will be the client platform of the future?

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A question that kept coming back off late in my work is ‘What will be the client platform of the future?’ Considering that User interface is ‘the’ killer feature for any product/service, a choice of the client platform is a key building block in design.  I would like to share my current views on this topic and would be nice to hear from you as well.  I had written some time back about the Emerging UI Client paradigms; hopefully I can throw some new light on this now. 

The first issue to me is ‘Will there be the Client platform in the future? In general considering that in different application domains (games, enterprise apps, engineering design, telematics,….) different client requirements exist, for all we know we will have domain specific client platforms.  While some aspects of different clients can be generalized (ex security, management, ui control libraries…), a good amount of it is client/domain specific.  Given that the application domain requirements drive the type of client used (i.e. hardware, software and network features), how are the different (client) platforms trying to address this? 

I see three types of solutions currently in the market trying to address this.  First is the proprietary approach being taken by vendors such as Microsoft, Apple and Adobe. They offer a rich client development tools and runtime, but are proprietary. They address multiple clients/domains but come with a vendor lock in.  The difficulty to write apps for iPhone is a classic example of strengths/weakness of this approach 

The second approach is the one being taken by the likes of IBM, Sun, Nokia…  It’s a kind of hybrid model combining the open source approach with value added custom extensions. The success of Java as programming language and Eclipse as a development tool is in particular notable in this model. While they support multiple clients/domains, they also include the related complexity of hybrid model.  ‘RCP’ (Rich client platform) offered by Eclipse is of particular value here. While ‘eRCP’ (embedded RCP) is still immature and support for smart/occasionally connected clients is still missing, for now it’s the best alternative to Microsoft client technologies in general. 

The third approach is the so called ‘Rich Internet Applications’ (RIA) offered by companies such as Google/Yahoo/Salesforce and other web 2.0 companies.  Its basically a browser based client with extensions to create a more rich client interaction.  The cool thing about them is the ease with which mashups can be created and consumed.  They are very much network dependent (cloud computing) with related strengths/weaknesses. 

A related question to ask is where is open source in this discussion?  Historically (and for good reasons) open source projects have focused on core technologies which did not directly touch the end user. The hybrid model may be the best contribution that open source communities can do to establish the client platform. 

For some interesting related information check links below

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Stewart/?p=350

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/ria_what_is_it_good_for.php

 So to get back to the original question, what will be the Client Platform of the future?  As all things in life, it depends on whom you ask :o)

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Written by srinivasreddy

July 31, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Technology

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