Browser based applications – Are they the future?

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.

Aside

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.

2 replies
  1. Rarst
    Rarst says:

    Well, they are most certainly in future but they are not all of it. 🙂

    PC means personal computer and this personal usage model worked so well and adopted so widely for plenty of reasons.

    I don’t think networked stuff has a chance to dominate before networks structure evolve further than ancient Ethernet and crappy wireless links.

    Reply
  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    Thanks for the comment Rarst.

    You have a point. I think it depends on the area of computing you are looking at. In computing as a whole you are right, it is going to be a long time until people stop replacing the office applications with browser alternatives, for example.

    Where browser apps really shine is in workgroup applications, where networking and cross machine communication is needed, whether the client is application or browser based. Then it becomes an easy way to upgrade and support the individual users without some of the issues I wrote about above.

    You have a very good point about networking though, we have a long way to go on that road before it is considered flawless!

    Reply

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