June 2005 - Posts
I have been building applications on the web for almost a decade now; real applications used everyday by real people, not web sites you touch every once in a while. In my experience I have learned many things but one important element can be summed up in two words – browsers suck.
We have taken browsers and forced their square asses through round holes only to find that once we pushed it through there was another hole in a different shape waiting on the other side. Browsers are simply not an ideal platform for the presentation of data; they are certainly not ideal for the manipulation of that data. Don’t get me wrong we have come a long way since IE4 blew Netscape out of the water and ushered in an era more friendly to developers but let’s face it, the best of web applications are poor facsimiles of the real thing. What are we trying to do but merely mimic Windows.
We get excited by things like OWA in Exchange 2K3 but when questioned about the excitement the answer tends to be something like “It is so much like Outlook 2003, it is really great.” Think about the absurdity of that, we are excited because it is a pretty good fake.
ScottGu today announced Microsoft’s attempt to up the AJAX ante with Atlas and while exciting and applause worthy (and something I will most certainly use) I question its effect on the long term migration to a platform which is technically more elegant and financially (to MSFT) more fruitful. I am speaking about ‘Smart Clients’, Windows based applications with a native understanding of the web and specifically web services. The value of the web is not how pretty we can make our HTML but the content described by it, this was difficult to explain to people but the growth of RSS has made it more clear – the value is the data and not the presentation.
With the widespread adoption of managed run times like the .NET Framework and Java runtime some of the major challenges that gave rise to web based applications are being answered. Browsers and HTML in general gave us platform independent consistency. As the managed runtimes make their way on the nearly every new PC made and the majority of actively used existing ones this challenge is seceding. The runtime is becoming the consistent bedrock that developers need as a target for application development. Another great advantage wrought by the browser revolution was the obviation of the need for software distribution. Versioning issues and the physical act of installation on a client machine presented incredible engineering challenges and browsers simply did away with that. Today we are seeing more and more applications which update themselves and the Windows Forms team has served up a great piece of technology with ClickOnce deployment which will almost eliminate the original problem of distribution all together.
If the value proposition of the web is distilled down to the broad availability of the value asset (the data) then one could argue our applications can and should move to a model that best exploits that data for useful purposes, a model that takes advantage of the power of the PC and richness of the Windows user experience to give the user the best model of data availability and manipulative functionality. This is the course plotted by people building smart client applications and it is most certainly the right course; why then are people still building new applications using methods that don’t make sense anymore? Will Atlas merely exacerbate the problem by taking us further down a road of “works good enough” and effectively slow the migration back to Windows based applications.
My point is that we got in bed with browser based applications because of problems that are gone now (or very close to gone), will the continual advance and introduction of technologies that make life “more like” the real thing only delay to move back to the real thing?
This is not to say that Scott’s team should not build Atlas, of course they should and they should do it in classic Microsoft style: better than everyone else.
Dont like getting into political issues but this has an effect on software development...
Big ramifications I am sure, looking at the broader picture here - the US Supreme court has said that software developers can be held liable in the case their software/service is used in an illegal manner, regardless of your purpose or intent in development and the provision of the service.
The problem is with one's interpretation of intent, Souter says that someone who distributes something..."with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright..." is liable for the acts performed with the software. Fine but who decides what the object promotes, once again lending vagueness to a ruling which can and most certainly will be abused by lawyers everywhere.
Couple this with the outrageous eminent domain decision that gives the government power to seize your private property for purposes other than the 'public use' and we have fulfilled the fear of Lincoln and resigned our government to an eminent tribunal.
Microsoft censors words like Freedom and Democracy
I understand there are business considerations in all decisions like this and likewise the ultimate responsibility is a fiduciary one before the investment community but this really bothers me. All that talk about Microsoft and moral courage in the face of a state bill which extends specific and special rights to a certain minority group already protected as part of general anti-discrimination laws. Now a test of real courage and nothing.
Apple moving to Intel processors...Microsoft picking up PowerPC
Am I asleep? The more I think about this the odder it seems, seriously, tell me this 6 weeks ago and you are nuts.
Next up: Dodge and Chevy decide to trade engines, Viper and Corvette to make switch.
The story of an Apple/Intel relationship is everywhere now so I assume it is a legit story. Apple will in some form be moving to chips from Intel. But what does that really mean? All stories have been essentially the same, long on speculation and short on details. Mid 2006 the switch will begin, that is about all the detail that exists at this point. Jobs is supposed to tell more at his WWDC keynote this morning but certainly the speech will create a cabal of questioning.
I find it interesting that no reports have specified something that I think is a bigger issue here than manufacturer; architecture. No report that maintains a 'source' specifies that the move involves the use of X86; there is speculative coupling of the tidbit that Apple has had OSX running on X86 in a lab for some time. This should not be news to anyone who has paid attention as OSX is rooted from an X86 build based on BSD. The move also does not seem to make sense, if Apple is going X86 then why go with Intel - AMD is kicking their butt in so many technical categories...!?
Why do we automatically assume that Apple would toe the Intel line, any agreement such as this will have a give and take. In most cases this is going to be economic but since we are all just guessing at this point I will insist that it is possible that Intel will manufacture a chip designed with an instruction set compatible with existing OSX apps. If they dont, could it also be possible that Intel will now exercise the HyperVisor virtualization technology to help the move? Maybe someone smarter than me could answer if these things are possible.
Could it be possible that Apple will make and sell PCs? Forget their software which has become a niche for the 13 people who use it, the bulk of their revenue is based on their hardware which quite frankly is both aestetically and technically excellent.
Could the chips be used as part of a new home entertainment appliance, an IPod for the living room?
Could the story just be a bunch of speculation run amock? The NYT reported on it so truthfulness and bias need to be examined.
How many people will walk out of the keynote in protest? Childish I know but we are talking about Apple fans.
Scoble: Is it possible that Jobs saw a sneak peek of Longhorn and decided to abandon Apple's traditional business model in Mid 2006 (tentative Longhorn release timeframe!) and start selling Longhorn ready PCs!!!!!! (note to flamers: that was a joke)
For Joe Schmo working at some big bank whose IT group gets saddled with a nice training budget the question of PDC attendance takes on a more colloquail form of begging the boss to send you away for a week. For a group of developers in a software shop like SourceGear, PDC takes on a unique position in that their success is tied closely to that of MSFT and their customers are the type of people who will be at PDC.
For independent consultants and micro ISV types it is a bit different. I would love to go but must consider other factors than just another guy at an ISV or corporation, things Joe Schmo probably doesn't even care about. i.e., is it worth the money and what will my customers think?
From a monetary perspective it is a bit more than meets the eye, first there is the registration which comes just short of 2K, I know there are early bird deals but I cannot be sure at this point that I will even own my time this September so I must wait closer to the date. I am going to spend most of my time at the conf so a cheap hotel will be fine and I will take the shuttle from the airport because driving to LA is not really an option from Louisville KY. I know at these things that some meals are covered so lets say I need one meal a day from a fast food restaurant. I will fly out the day before (time zone considerations) and fly back the day PDC ends. This puts me in the hotel for 4 nights. Lets see where we stand…
- Registration: $1,995
- Flight: $350
- Meals: $50
- Hotel: $650
At this point we have looked at hard costs of doing PDC “on the cheap” and we are talking about 3 grand.
Consider soft costs and lets say I am a lackey consultant who only bills 40 hours a week, I don’t work weekends and only bill a modest $50 an hour. That puts the week at around 2K, money I will not be able to bill whereas I could if I stayed home. This does not consider lost business opportunities either, what would I miss that week and how much would that be worth. That kind of intangible is hard to monetize but setting that aside the hard and soft costs are north of 5K.
Is PDC really worth 5,000 bucks…?
Let me look at this some other ways:
PDC versus XBOX 360 and new 42” High Def Plasma TV.
PDC versus 10 day cruse to the Panama Canal for me and my wife
PDC versus Incredibly fast new development machine with dual 24” LCD monitors
Topping all of this off is the fact that almost everyone who will be at PDC will be blogging all the good stuff and Microsoft will surely offer another DVD with the content, everything said and done will be written into articles within weeks and I will be able to download any new Longhorn or VS builds from MSDN Subscriber downloads.
So I ask again, is it really worth it?