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Can Web Apps Ever Truly Replace Desktop Apps? 196

tooger writes "Matt Hartley from MadPenguin.org opines that web apps can never replace desktop applications, for a variety of reasons. He writes, 'Some of you may point out that the data stored on your hard drive is not of any real consequence, but I would disagree. It is more than probable that a skilled, disgruntled employee of the company you trust with your data could ... sell off your personal information.' Given the real danger of privacy concerns, identity theft, and uptime, will web-based applications ever truly replace locally hosted software?"
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Can Web Apps Ever Truly Replace Desktop Apps?

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  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu&gmail,com> on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:05PM (#18721527) Journal

    A more appropriate question might be, "What is the extent to which Web apps will be effective, and accepted?".

    Many desktop applications are of that ilk solely from the era of their birth. There isn't always a compelling reason an application needs to run on a desktop, and Web offers another and slightly different alternative. And as for some of Web apps shortcomings pointed out by the author, they're mostly nits, things that will be solved soon, or already solved.

    I for one find Google applications (spreadsheet, word processor) perfectly good replacements for my more modest needs day to day. They come close, at this very immature stage in their life cycles, to being able to completely replace my need for desktop instantiations. I would guess the average lay-person would fall more neatly into this demographic -- the average computer user could save lots of dollars by getting comfortable with the scaled back versions of stuff they paid big money for but never tapped the deep and myriad powers from.

    There probably always will be a place and reason for desktop applications: data security, data privacy, contracts, speed, availability, etc., but Web offers another approach and an increasingly viable approach to replacing applications we all once thought of as "desktop".

    As a developer, it's changed my way of thinking when it comes to creating and designing new products. It isn't a hard transition, and it offers some interesting new ways to make magic for my clients (mashups, etc.).

    The article describes "lack of sync" options with Google apps. Yawn. I've written my own for now, I agree it's a bit of a nuisance. Does anybody think for a moment these gaps aren't going to be filled soon?

    • In my opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by catmandi ( 995992 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:12PM (#18721663) Homepage
      Personally I would identify data security as the major problem with web applications. Features, speed and availability will all improve as bandwidth becomes less of an issue - and privacy is something that could arguably be easier to control in what is essentially a thin client application. However, integrity and the (current) lack of guarantees regarding backups and recovery are the real stumbling block. If this can be overcome (and it's only going to happen when people are willing to pay for these services) then I don't see why web applications shouldn't become as popular as desktop environments.
      • by aoteoroa ( 596031 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @03:18PM (#18722915)
        Our small manufacturing company uses desktop applications extensively, and they are a major security problem.

        Sales people have quit and brought valuable proprietary information to our competitors. Giving our competitors information we worked hard (and spent a fair amount of money) to obtain.

        Webapps can be secure. Your bank trusts them.

        With a webapp I can guarantee that everybody has a current version of the program, that everybody is working from the most recent price lists, people can access information anywhere in the world at anytime. And when they quit they are cut off instantly. I don't have to knock on their door asking for the company laptop.
        • by Ant P. ( 974313 )
          people can access information anywhere in the world at anytime
          Ah yes, the one thing a desktop app can do that a web app can never do. I wouldn't rely on Google Maps any more than 100ft from the nearest building with power and networking.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jimicus ( 737525 )
          Webapps can be secure. Your bank trusts them.

          Yep. Provided it's your bank who's managing the webapp.

          Like everything in IT, it's a tradeoff.

          Are we prepared to tradeoff the risk inherent in storing our data on someone else's system (what happens if they go bankrupt? how can we be sure their systems are reliable and secure?) against the work involved in running our own (how do we upgrade everything? are we prepared to spend several weeks preparing for and rolling out an application rather than just paying
      • The ironic thing is how often you hear people give this as a valid reason to not use web hosted email/services/etc, and then back up their files once every 6 months tops.

        Truthfully I trust Google to back up my email and documents WAY MORE than I would EVER trust myself to maintain any kind of backup regimen. Hell - with the way the Google Filesystem works it is questionable if you even need backups since you can just yank whole nodes and clusters out at random without losing data.

        Also - there is nothing fro
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The major advantage of web apps is distribution. With browsers adhering more closely to the standards, the difficulties involved in making cross-browser apps is less difficult, and makes distributing such apps far cheaper and easier than desktop apps.

      That being said, I think we're a long way off from having browser apps that can really compete with their desktop equivalents. Even a highly usable site like GMail still is awkward and clumsy compared to your average mail client. Google Docs is interesting,
      • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:53PM (#18722487)
        I think you've hit the nail on the head with distribution.

        As a user, and in my personal life, I HATE web based apps. I avoid them like the plague. They take my data out of my hands, often have an advertisement thrown in somewhere, require an active net connection at all times, and first and foremost they simply don't feel as responsive as a desktop application. There's also a lack of consistency. For example, for my online banking I'm pretty much forced to use the web apps that the banks use (no desktop equivalent available). I have accounts with 4 different banks. All of them have basically the same functions, but I have to learn 4 different web apps to use them. If they had a standard protocol that could tie back to a desktop app it would alleviate that problem.

        On the other hand, working in IT, I love deploying and managing them. There are no software installs to perform and keep updated on lots of desktops. There are no worries about users storing important info on their local machines (even if told to store on their desktops). Also, with the progression towards these I make switching our organization over to a non-Microsoft OS on the desktop more and more possible. The more stuff that runs in the browser the less I have to worry about which OS is on the computers. And truth be told, when I'm work work, I don't really mind the problems mentioned above, because it's WORK. I don't expect my programs and computer at work to be as laid back and streamlined/comfortable as what I want at home, in the same way that I don't mind sitting in an office chair all day long but when I go home I'd toss the thing out the nearest window and get a recliner :).

        That being said, the issue of data security is still an extreme concern: even when our users use a web/browser based app, it still better be running off of one of OUR servers in on OUR site.

        I think that such apps will increase greatly in the corporate/government world, but that home applications will still be largely desktop in nature.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *
        I've already replaced Microsoft Office with web apps. When I bought a new computer, that came with MS Vista, once I got so frustrated that I had to replace Vista with my trusty XP Pro SP2, I decided I was also going to forgo all the benefits of Microsoft Office and use only Google Docs. I teach at a University and I haven't regretted my decision once. If I want to have the files saved locally I can easily do that and everything is compatible with the Office files people send me. I don't use Powerpoint, s
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      The article describes "lack of sync" options with Google apps. Yawn. I've written my own for now, I agree it's a bit of a nuisance. Does anybody think for a moment these gaps aren't going to be filled soon?

      If you've written your own, maybe you want to open the source code to everyone else? These gaps might be filled soon, but they aren't filled yet. Besides, the problem isn't just "syncing", but rather a lack of consistency.

      If I'm working on a Word document, I can upload that to Google, and I'll probab

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by deuterium ( 96874 )

        What's not clear to me, however, is whether a traditional web browser is the appropriate solution for this. It may be that, rather than making "web applications", we need a different framework that allows the sort of flexibility that web apps allow but with the consistency of desktop apps. Maybe a web browser should go back to reading static HTML and a new sort of generic remote application framework needs to be developed-- but who the hell is going to do that?

        I'm with you here. The browser does certain thi

        • Another problem with web apps that a lot of people seem to dismiss is what happens when the app crashes, or the server's PSU dies or anything else that takes down the app.

          Where I currently work we have somewhere in the order of 15 to 20 web apps, about six to ten of which are critical to be able to do work, these are run by several different groups of sysadmins spread out in various geographical locations and connected to our LAN through the massive corporate VPN. At any given point in time it can be safel

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )
      Thank you... why does everything have to be so... binary? Would anyone really expect web apps to completely supplant desktop apps? Putting aside obvious niche markets like publishing or financial reporting, they certainly will for certain applications... for instance, my former department used to use Word's clumsy collaboration features to edit a common "weekly update" document for management. Now they use Google Docs. On the other hand, no one in their right mind would depend on Google Docs if their networ
    • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:35PM (#18722121) Homepage Journal
      There isn't always a compelling reason an application needs to run on a desktop

      There are even fewer compelling reasons to run most applications via the web though. Frankly, I think web based apps are more at home on the Intranet than the Internet. The data security will *never* be quite good enough for me to trust any even remotely sensitive data to a Data Center not under the control of my organization, be it family or corporation.
      • by suggsjc ( 726146 )
        While you *may* be correct in your lack of trust. We (younger generations) are either more trusting (or more apathetic) about who knows what about us. Targeted advertising...bring it on.

        That said, *if* the overall experience of using a web interface is comparable to a desktop equivalent then it may not matter if they knowingly sell the information out their back door. So just because YOU don't trust another organization doesn't mean that nobody will.

        One other thing is that individuals and businesses
    • I'm a fan of web mail, particularly Gmail, and am beginning to use the calendar and applications more often. As a designer, the things that will likely remain on the desktop are power applications, and even in these instances I see a lot of "smart" back-up and collaboration/sharing between web resources. As processors themselves begin to share resources across networks, I can't imagine that applications will not do the same.

      Which is more jarring to a business, when the server goes down, or the network? In m
    • A more appropriate question might be, "What is the extent to which Web apps will be effective, and accepted?".

      I agree. The answer to the question is a moving target and it's moving pretty fast.

      I for one find Google applications (spreadsheet, word processor) perfectly good replacements for my more modest needs day to day. They come close, at this very immature stage in their life cycles, to being able to completely replace my need for desktop instantiations

      When I look at web apps today, I'm amazed h

  • If most people will trust Microsoft with their personal data, why shouldn't they trust some random company out there on the web someplace? Microsoft has already proven themselves to be untrustworthy (spyware, insecurity.)

    If over 50% of the world's PCs are compromised, then most people's data is already vulnerable, on their own PC.

    I call FUD.

    • Depends -

      * A lot of us don't trust Microsoft to wipe their noses correctly, let alone store our data (Linux, OSX, etc...) To be fair, you did qualify the statement I'm addressing that to, but in all honesty, the basis of trust differs for the app.

      Ferinstance, I trust my credit union's webapps because 1) I already trust the company with my money, and 2) if they hose it up, they are legally bound to recompense me for any losses incurred and proven to be their fault (and if they don't or can't due to bankr

  • by dreddnott ( 555950 ) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:07PM (#18721573) Homepage
    Given the prevalence of behavior-logging spyware on most end-consumer computers, I'm not sure if the average person's data would be more secure on their own PC, or even their work PC. Of course it's nice to feel that you're responsible for your own data, and it's sitting there safe on your hard drive, but Microsoft is Microsoft, rootkits are rootkits, and Chinese hackers are Chinese hackers.
    • by Lockejaw ( 955650 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:11PM (#18721657)
      Never mind security. If it's stored locally, I can always get at it and do what I want with it, even if I'm away from my desk and my WLAN. When I'm not at home, I can only hope that there's accessible wifi (and not one of those subscription-based hotspots).
      • Never mind security. If it's stored locally, I can always get at it and do what I want with it, even if I'm away from my desk and my WLAN. When I'm not at home, I can only hope that there's accessible wifi (and not one of those subscription-based hotspots).

        Of course the same argument can be used the other way round: With locally installed apps, when you are not around your computer, you have no chance to get to your documents. With web apps, all you need is any computer with Internet access. It may be yours, it may be that of your friend, or it might even be a computer in an internet cafe on the other side of the world (assuming you don't worry about the security risk). It won't matter if that computer is running Windows, Linux, MacOS or even something very

      • But only if you have access to electricity!

        There will come a time when network access will be as ubiquitous. I'm assuming that people will find this sufficient, much as they take the availability of electricity for granted.

        The only problem for web apps is latency. Even with today's bandwidth, the compressed X protocol works just fine for the vast majority of applications, but the latency is the killer.

        My prediction is that unless we find a way to communicate at faster than the speed of light, network late
      • If it's stored locally, I can always get at it and do what I want with it

        Assuming you always use the same computer, and you always remember to bring that computer with you.

        These are two things that many of us find are not true, much of the time.
    • by COMON$ ( 806135 ) *
      'Some of you may point out that the data stored on your hard drive is not of any real consequence, but I would disagree. It is more than probable that a skilled, disgruntled employee of the company you trust with your data could ... sell off your personal information.' Given the real danger of privacy concerns, identity theft, and uptime, will web-based applications ever truly replace locally hosted software?

      What does this have to do with online web apps? I don't know about you guys out there but on the

  • Rich Clients (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <namtabmiaka>> on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:07PM (#18721575) Homepage Journal
    People keep forgetting that in a corporate setting, you'll want to run your own Web Services service. While GMail for companies may make a lot of sense for the little guys, the big guys are only going to do it if they can control it internally. That takes the privacy and security concerns down to almost zero.
    • People keep forgetting that in a corporate setting, you'll want to run your own Web Services service. While GMail for companies may make a lot of sense for the little guys, the big guys are only going to do it if they can control it internally. That takes the privacy and security concerns down to almost zero.

      Yeah, you're right. No big companies will run will be running any Gmail or Google Apps at all. No one like Proctor & Gamble, L'Oreal, GE or Prudential [google.com]. Nope.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *
        They don't tell you the details of the transaction. I've been party to enough of these deals to know that either Proctor and Gamble is requesting special conditions (e.g. host it themselves -OR- have secure access to the backend -OR- Google has to do a whole bunch of security audits to be certified), or they're only using it in a trial group somewhere in the dark corners of the company. The press releases always make these things seem more impressive than they really are.
  • Alternative.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zyl0x ( 987342 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:08PM (#18721583)
    What if the same web-based-application architecture was applied to a corporation's intranet? This way you could host all your employees' applications in one location, as well as handle backup operations more easily.

    I feel as though these "web" based applications have more than just Internet usage.
    • The Middle Ground (Score:2, Interesting)

      by EgoWumpus ( 638704 )
      I think you've probably hit on the eventual outcome; desktop apps will become less prevalent, but people won't entirely rely on the network. Instead, there will be more major datacenters that administer the apps to remote clients. In security-needed situations, those clients will likely be segmented away from the internet at large as they are now. But I don't really see a reason that computers will need to be anything more than thin clients in the near future.

      The major possible exception to this is gaming;

  • I'd hate to have to go wardriving just to be able to open a word processing document on my laptop.

  • I agree, for a variety of reasons. For one, there's security, but for me the biggest problem with web-based apps is that they don't go everywhere my computer does. When I'm at my friend's beach house, there's no internet connection. What am I supposed to do if I need to finish up a paper or something like that? Web based apps are great because of their portability in other ways (I can access them from any computer) but personally, I will never use them exclusively. Anything saved on the web will always
  • pfft (Score:5, Funny)

    by igotmybfg ( 525391 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:11PM (#18721645) Homepage
    "could sell off your personal information."

    Sorry to disappoint you, but people don't even want my personal information when I offer it to them (that chick at the bar) for free!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Sorry to disappoint you, but people don't even want my personal information when I offer it to them (that chick at the bar) for free!
      Well, maybe it's that you offered her the wrong personal information. I'm sure if you offered her the data needed to get at the money on your bank account, she would have been interested.
  • no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lashi ( 822466 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:12PM (#18721673) Homepage
    no, just like TV never truly replace radio. They will just diverge and serve different functions in the long run.
  • Of course they can. All you need is the bandwidth which most people have (VPN anyone?). And you don't need to use a web-browser either, the app could be a hybrid where a client plugs into a server and works from there. So things that web-browsers have trouble with (like updating drop-down list boxes with new items) could be handled indistinguishably from a local application. Basically you could write a custom client that connects to an appropriate web-based server and through your own custom protocol ha
    • Just to clarify, absolutely yes. There are only two prerequisites required for a distributed system. Bandwidth and latency. Client/Server architectures were experimented with in the '90s but because of inadequate infrastructure (see prerequisites) and lack of network-centric programming libraries they did not become successful at that time.

      Today infrastucture meets minimum standards to permit practical network-applications. The applications can take many forms: they may be embedded within a web-browse
  • by Lazerf4rt ( 969888 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:14PM (#18721703)

    We are seeing more and more articles appearing with the claim that everything we really need from an OS is available online.

    That's because those articles are online, and the people who write online articles love being online.

    You ask the guy without an Internet connection, or with a 56K whether he thinks web apps will replace desktop apps and he'd be all like "WTF?" Keep in mind that some huge fraction of Americans never intend to get an Internet connection. Don't just dismiss that many people as idiots, either.

    And how would you like it if your C++ compiler or GIMP or Photoshop or 3D Studio Max was a web application? Has anybody thought it through? It's not even a matter of security, just plain utility.

    • by hahiss ( 696716 )
      Yeah, just imagine how long it would take to compile and install Gentoo THEN!

      (ducks for cover)
    • Keep in mind that some huge fraction of Americans never intend to get an Internet connection.

      Keep in mind that one day those people will all be dead. Also keep in mind that most of those people can't program their fucking VCR.

      And how would you like it if your C++ compiler or GIMP or Photoshop or 3D Studio Max was a web application? Has anybody thought it through? It's not even a matter of security, just plain utility.

      Why would any of those necessarily be a problem?

      Ever used distcc?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ACMENEWSLLC ( 940904 )
      We need some qualifications here.

      Almost all of my software I use inhouse on our LAN is web based. Mimesweeper is web based. WSUS 2.0 is web based, though for some reason 3.0 is not. My e-mail filtering solution is web based. My web filtering solution is web based. The list continues.

      This software runs on my LAN at Gigabit speed. But it is web based. I can VPN in and use my web browser to run this software at home. While some of these solutions transition from Win32 to web based are great, others us
  • Lots of people don't have cheap, always on, high speed connections. So I don't think they will be interested. Maybe the big players pushing web applications will be the best thing that's ever happened to encourage take up of open source software. Huge numbers of people round the world with poorer quality connections will be up for trying out open source versions of popular cornerstone tools if the big players all move to a web only model...
  • When the day comes that I can burn my secure data files to a DVD with a web app and not need to take my tinfoil hat off first...

    then and only then might web apps replace desktop ones completely.
  • The calculus is pretty straightforward...which one of the following is more costly?

    1) Inability to work without a reliable connection.
    2) Dealing with the risk of theft, drive crash, maintenance of backups at the user level, etc.

    It's also an old question. Just because we are using browsers instead of X terminals doesn't make much difference. The answer to which was better was and will remain, "it depends". Different strokes for different folks.
  • by acm ( 107375 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:18PM (#18721817) Homepage
    I've always used Photoshop and photo editing as an example of a class of applications that would never make sence to be replaced with a web equivalent. Then someone showed me Snipshot [snipshot.com]. Check it out, it is pretty intersting. Although it only does very basic photo editing right now, I could see where, in the future, it could support most (all?) the features of Photoshop.

    So now I don't know. Besides the security of having all your data on your own hard drive, I'm not sure I have a compelling technical reason to argue that virtually all applications couldn't eventually be ran through the web browser.

    • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:50PM (#18722407) Homepage Journal
      http://news.com.com/Adobe+to+take+Photoshop+online /2100-7345_3-6163015.html [com.com]
      "Hoping to get a jump on Google and other competitors, Adobe Systems plans to release a hosted version of its popular Photoshop image-editing application within six months, the company's chief executive said Tuesday.

      "
    • by MasterC ( 70492 ) <cmlburnett@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday April 13, 2007 @03:36PM (#18723181) Homepage

      Then someone showed me Snipshot. Check it out, it is pretty intersting. Although it only does very basic photo editing right now, I could see where, in the future, it could support most (all?) the features of Photoshop.
      Interesting: yes. I will grant it that but that's about all I'll give it. Let me know when it can zoom and edit pixels with the speed of MS Paint (let alone Photoshop or GIMP) then we can label Snipshot a real photo editor. Until then, it's a "photo tweaker" in my book.

      The problem with Snipshot is that it will never attain the performance of a desktop app is because it's instructing the server to do all the work and any visual updates require sending another image back to the client after the server has performed them. The browser does zero actual work; it's the only way it can be done within the HTML/JS confines.

      It will be the same issue as with video or audio but worse because both are more bandwidth intensive.

      My primary complaint about any web app is speed/performance (and I'm not a performance freak, just impatient). The operations Snipshot is performing are trivial and they take a helluva lot longer than GIMP could do them in. Gmail can be dreadfully, painfully slow and is tolerable because I want the convenience.

      If my prediction/opinion matters: the end result will be a hybrid with shared data. Sometimes, I just need that raw GIMP power to get crap done. Sometimes, I might be stuck on someone else's computer and not have GIMP and the handful of functions Snipshot can do may be sufficient. The marriage of desktop and web will be when I can tote those images to either app that I need them in at the time I need it. Ditto for email. I want gmail and thunderbird to sync. I want google calendar to sync with my phone and kontact. I want picasaweb to sync with kuickshow/gwenview/ee/name-your-slideshow-desktop- app.

      The endgame is proper sharing of data to the app suited for the use. (Psst, just like everything else in life!) No one paradigm will "win" for every application and problem.
  • ...will web-based applications ever truly replace locally hosted software?

    No, because without some locally hosted software, you can't get to the web site all your other stuff would be on anyways.

    That being said, still no. My cablemodem is fast, but I doubt it's as fast as the SATA cable between my application and the file it's trying to load.

    Currently, net performance is orders of magnitude slower than local cabling (for most of us, anyways. You guys on Internet2 can ignore me.) But as soon as tho

  • While users on Slashdot can cover all bases of opinions the bottom line will be profit and acquiesance. Web apps will slowly replace desktop apps so long as desktop apps fail to turn the same profit that web apps and subscription services can. To some extent we can figure in the level to which users acquiesce to the transfer but the fact simply is that there are larger entities than end users calling the shots on this one. It's like pushing a bill through Congress: if at first they don't succeed they'll
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Who knew that widespread use of web applications was a symptom of our broken public discourse system?

      The more you know, I guess...
  • by richg74 ( 650636 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:23PM (#18721951) Homepage

    Given the real danger of privacy concerns, identity theft, and uptime, will web-based applications ever truly replace locally hosted software?

    There are two different issues being conflated here:

    • Can an application system, in which most of the processing and data storage is done on a central host, using a Web browser as the user interface, replace conventional desktop PC applications?
    • If so, will organizations and users be willing to have the hosting done by an external provider?

    I would say that the answer to the first question is very probably "yes". After all, people used mainframe applications successfully for many years ; some still do. We have routinely run workstation networks with "dataless" clients (think a Unix/Linux box with only the OS, X, and swap on the local disk) precisely because we could control security and reliability more effectively. (Possibly, some users will bitch, because they want to control "their" data. If the data, as it usually does, belongs to the firm, I will punch their sympathy ticket, but otherwise -- tough.)

    On the other hand, I would be wary of entrusting all my data storage and/or processing to an external provider. That raises all the same sorts of questions that any outsourcing deal does.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:29PM (#18722017) Homepage Journal
    First of all, Mr. MadPenguin.Org, why the fuck do you put big bold links to unrelated stories RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of your little rant? Those look like section headings. I was confused the whole time I was reading the article. Since they weren't underlined--like the link that appears in the article is--I didn't know they were links until I moused over them. I couldn't figure out how OLPC and a rant against Linux worked into this web app article. Sure, your nav links aren't underlined either, but they're all grouped in standard places--they don't just unexpectedly pop up in the middle of the article.

    Apple Delays Leopard to October. [slashdot.org]

    Aaaaaanyway, why do we still keep seeing this binary (no pun intended) bullshit? Why does it have to be one or the other? Can't we all just get along? Will web apps ever replace desktop apps? Probably not. But--will desktop apps ever replace all web apps? Gotta give a big 'no' on that one too. So why have a story at all? What's next--"Will cars replace walking?" Web apps do some things well, local apps do other things well--and the definition of 'well' depends on the user. Email, for me, is very simple--a ten-year-old email client does pretty much everything I need, as does nearly every webmail service. And since I have two jobs, I never launch the binary email client I have on my desktop. Even when I'm home, I'm reading webmail with my laptop on the couch. For me, a web-based app has 100% replaced a local app. Since email doesn't work without *some* kind of connection--yeah, I can compose offline, BFD; it's not going anywhere without a live wire--the fact that webmail only works with a working Net connection is moot. So the main thing that people might call a disadvantage, isn't. (For me at least. I'm sure some jet-set business type is going to reply and tell me how much email he composes on a plane. Fine. It's a need of yours, but not of mine.) If I were ever organized enough to maintain a calendar, I'd probably do that online too.

    He starts off by complaining that online data storage is risky. Someone should tell him about encryption. If box.net wants to give away the gig of encrypted data I've got stored there, fine. Just means more backups, as far as I'm concerned. Anyone who takes the time to decrypt it will be mighty bored looking at what I've got stored there anyway.

    His other big example seems to be that Google's calendar can't sync with a device. Give it time, man. A) it isn't rocket science, and I'm sure the big brains at Google can figure out a way to make that happen, B) as soon as they care to devote some time to the issue. (Look for Apple's iPhone to make this kind of thing much more popular, just like the iMac made USB peripherals popular almost a decade ago.) As he points out, there are third-party apps that make this possible--but his point seems to be that since it isn't a first-party solution, it sucks. OK. Whatever.
  • by gordgekko ( 574109 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:29PM (#18722023) Homepage
    Reading this discussion reminds me of every discussion I've ever seen about the thin/dumb clients vs. PC debate. Thin/dumb clients will replace the PC, why do you need all that power? Give up control! Your data is safe somewhere else!

    So how is that thin/dumb client industry working out? Sell any more machines outside of a government setting since 1997?

    For the most part, people want to control their important data and no serious user/business is going entrust their data to companies which promise to "do no evil" or others that have been declared monopolies or others, etc.
  • Whenever I hear positive talk about web apps, it's mostly developers who say how easy they are to deploy. Or managers and admins tend to like the idea because they seem to make their lives in one or the other aspect easier. But whenever actual users talk about web apps, I have the feeling it is mostly negative. With web apps it seems a bit to be like with Java. I know a few developers who love to develop with Java and its tools, but actually hate to run and use Java apps themselves.

    Many desktop applicat
  • No reason at all that the web server hosting the application cannot be running local or remote and or
    a hybrid of both local and remote....
  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:31PM (#18722057) Journal
    I'd like to see them replace the desktop Web browser application with a webbased one!
  • by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:31PM (#18722061)

    It is more than probable that a skilled, disgruntled employee of the company you trust with your data could ... sell off your personal information
    Given that the scenario in question calls for a skilled, disgruntled insider, its unclear to me that it matters very much where your personal info is. Wouldn't the real concern be surrounding outsiders getting access to your info via a web based application? Surely an insider can get to your stuff regardless of where you keep it.
  • We're never going back to dumb terminals. That's not to say that there won't ever be uses where dumb terminals make sense -- there are and will be. But PCs will always have a niche, and I don't see their usefulness going away, ever.

    Heavy processing where high latency can't be tolerated (such as 3d gaming) will always be run locally, while at some point down the road and where high latency can be tolerated, heavy processing could conceivably be moved to the server side or to distributed networked supercomp
  • The only way... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mockylock ( 1087585 )
    The only way it would be likely for this to happen, would be in an enterprise situation, rather than internet and home use situations. In large companies that use application servers that hog quite a bit of resources when running apps and profiles, web based applications via the intranet could possibly use less resources and be replicated more easily than existing schemas. This can also be propagated to other web based technologies, whether it be linux OR windows based, making it much easier for companie
  • Because there are the matters of sensitive data, and privacy.

    even google risks orders from federal government for handing over user data. They might have fought and won, but it doesnt mean that they will always win.

    As such, people will still hold sensitive data within their locale.
  • Isn't this pretty much the same as asking "Can desktop apps every truly replace mainframe apps"?

    There will always be room for them, and I doubt any one of the concepts will entirely supplant another.
  • Why is the web and it's RIA winning so much attention? Because there is so much to win. Formats are being cracked wide open via RIAs, no matter how copmlicated they are to develop. The web is the easiest way around the last 10 years of MS stranglehold. And people want to take it, even if they can't exactly put a finger on what's nagging them. Webapps are easy to maintain. And where they're not, there's an OSS desktop application waiting to be installed with a few mouseclicks. But they are getting less.
    The t
  • Can they? Let's waste our time on discussing this.
  • But, then again, I'm a web developer. The only applications I use on a regular basis that are on my machine are a text editor, and IM client, and (ugh) Outlook. Everything else runs on a server.

    So switching to that in my personal life was fairly easy. Since I'm not on my own computer most of the time, having my email and calendars and address book on a web service is extremely convenient.

  • You're SOL on a plane if you don't have an offline version of the software.
  • as others have pointed out, big companies that care about privacy and security concerns will make the web apps run off their own internal servers. Web apps are poised to take over for desktop apps. Why install some software on a hundred or a thousand machines when you can install it on one and have everyone log on to it? For the home user, having your e-mail and school reports easily accessible from anywhere without having to lug around cds or flash drives makes the privacy concerns irrelevant. Most of the
  • IMHO the problem isn't web applications but web interfaces. I don't believe web apps can supplant desktop apps until they are just as accessible and user-friendly. Technology has enabled a better client experience using AJAX, and (shudder) Microsoft's new WPF/E browser plugin thingy for rich interfaces the Microsoft non-AJAX way. (They're billing it as an alternative to HTML/DHTML/AJAX and not a replacement. Interesting but I digress...)

    As far as as non-UI aspects, sometimes I prefer my data on the network

  • by srussell ( 39342 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @04:08PM (#18723669) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand people who can use web apps to replace all of their desktop apps.

    Fewer and fewer people that I know even own a desktop computer any more; most have a set-up similar to my own: a couple of laptops and a file/print server in the basement. In fact, the only desktop use that I personally encounter any more is at work.

    I regularly use my laptop when I don't have an internet connection, for whatever reason, and being dependent on some network storage would severely cramp my style. People synchronize their laptops with network storage for a reason.

    Someday, when internet access is ubiquitous, I'll buy into replacing desktop apps with distributed (in whatever form) apps, but I don't think we're there yet. I don't think we're even close. And, to be frank, while Google has some outstanding applications, the word processor and spreadsheet aren't even close to adequate for non-trivial use.

    --- SER

    • you lost my vote at "and a file/print server in the basement". Sure it happens, but what you're describing isn't mainstream behavior.

      That said, I don't feel strongly against the bulk of your argument. Thin clients bring the kind of portability that I'm sure will be embraced eventually. Gaming rigs can still execute net booted code locally so with high-speed networking it becomes more and more a no-brainer.
  • First, don't forget that a web-app can run on an intranet, and not be accessible by the internet.

    Second, a highly skilled disgruntled employed could probably steal information just as easily from his desktop.

    There probably are some apps which are best not ran remotely, but not for reasons cited here.
  • I still can't see large companies wanting to rely on an outside service provider to host core applications, keep their data safe, and have full uptime. I especially can't see this happening now or anytime in the near future. Web GUIs are a lot better than they were a few years ago, but no amount of AJAX, .NET or whatever can make up for the fact that the app is being served over the network.

    What I do see is a march back to centralized computing. Thin clients, blade PCs, etc. are all the rage now. It's a cyc
  • Did we not just have a very similar conversation [slashdot.org]?

    - RG>
  • You can achieve a much higher level of collaboration when using web apps. Case in point: TurboTax allows the internet community at large to verify your tax returns. This is just not possible with a desktop application.
  • As it currently exists, no. But check out WPF from Microsoft, it's what Java in the browser should have been. Miguel Whatisface from the Mono team is scared of it.
  • Can banks ever truly replace mattresses?
  • And while we're on the subject, I tried to submit this story while back: Centralized Systems = Large Problems [slashdot.org]

    Will webapps replace my "desktop" apps? Well, no. I don't trust some other site to do a good job with my stuff, because I understand that those sites are administered by idiots like me.

    And as for "big corporations gooood! trust big corporations!", I got over that one a long time ago.

    (I put desktop in quotes, because I tend to read mail using emacs with the MH-E package, over a ssh terminal wh

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