There is a shift in the market at the moment towards browser based applications. There are the more visible (web based) ones produced by Google, but a lot of the software industry hard-hitters are ditching the traditional application clients for a browser based experience. Have we seen the end for a lot of (especially workgroup) applications?
In order to answer this question it is necessary to understand the issues involved in software support, whether it is paid for support or open source community support.
As a software vendor you deal day to day with issues found and raised by the customer. This can be an issue in the code (a bug), a user error, or an environment issue.
If you have ever worked supporting a software product you will know that an awful lot of issue are environmental issues, and a lot of these take a long time to diagnose. Depending on the complexity of the software you need to take into account everything from the Operating system (the version of Windows), the database drivers installed, the configuration scripts, the version of the client software, even idiosyncrasies within their user profile. Software support can be a web of complexity!
If you strip away some of this complexity this gets rid of a lot of the environmental issues and leaves you with user error and bugs. It also leaves you a lot more time to concentrate on what you should be doing, improving the product, instead of fire-fighting the issues people are having trying to run the existing product.
One way of stripping away the environmental issues is to use a web client. Largely it doesn’t matter what OS they are using, what drivers they have installed, or conflicting software, 9 times out of 10 if they have the supported web browser installed then the application will run fine.
A lot of companies are ditching the application clients to go with browser based solutions for this exact issue. It is a God-send from a support perspective, I speak from experience here.
There is also a link between browser based applications and web based applications. While they are similar they are also fundamentally different. Web based applications break out of the office domain and communicate with a server hosted by the software vendor. This has positives, negatives and many other issues, but that’s for another post.