Offline web applications

I see the offline web application debate has opened again with James writing one post here.  I’m a firm believer that the best experience is through a “thick” client with offline abilities in addition to the same applications also being browser accessible for times when you maybe are away from a machine with a thick client.  With my old engineering hat I used to love the fact that with the thick clients you would leverage the underutilised client PC resources to the benefit of generally scarce server resources (memory and CPU).

With all this in mind its interesting to see more of the web 2.0 players stepping into the desktop client arena, Zimbra being the latest that I’ve spotted.  It’ll be interesting to see how this field matures over the coming years.

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  1. One of the things I’m wondering is at what point does a thin-client browser based application become a thick-client? Except of course they are really often composite thick-clients built from layers of browser and plugins… I think this introduces not just issues of resources on the client (and browsers are getting heavier all the time) but also issues of compatibility etc. Its not so bad for consumers who can install what they want, but browser and plugin compatibility becomes a real pain in a corporate computing environment. I guess we’ll have to see if this has an impact on Web 2.0 startups looking for enterprise adoption.


  2. James, thats an interesting point. I also wonder when the consumerisation of environments will remove the issues of restricted desktops in enterprises – and where the 2 curves meet (i.e. increasing proportion of offline capabilities with decreasing proportion of restricted devices).


  3. I think desktop and web are merging. Apollo from Adobe provides a way for web development methods to be used to develop apps that can integrate with the desktop. .NET, WPF/E and XBAPS are simillar and Java of course has done this for ages.

    Provided desktop apps integrate with services on the web, install in real-time, don’t change the configuration of the operating system and are self maintaining then they meet all of the characteristics of web apps that appeal to me.


  4. @3 I need to chase you again to read more on Apollo … it will be interesting to see how these tools change the way collaborative applications are developed and whether they will open any new forms of collaboration.


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