Apps Apps Apps. Oh and web services

31 08 2011

The growing demand for smart phones, and the ever growing number of us who now own one, and almost rely on one, means we (as consumers and end users) now expect to be able to consumer content and work in different ways. It’s amazing that “culturally” many of us now come to expect certain possibilities from our mobile devices, and that means we expect certain things from the content we wish to access or the solutions we wish to use to work. With this in mind, we need to architect solutions and user experiences not just for the “web” or the desktop, but for both, and not just for both, but also for mobile devices…


Apps, Apps and yet more Apps

It really all started with the iPhone, the drive for “there’s an app for that”, which means many of us now use apps for so many day to day type tasks. Apps deliver a far greater user experience than any web based “app” can in a mobile browser, even HTML 5. Keep in mind this fact, as it means consumers expectations are higher than ever, which ultimately means software developers need to provide “App” solutions, and not rely on HTML 5 for cross platform compatibility.

This same expectation on our mobiles means we expect similar from our desktop experiences. So while HTML provides cross browser capabilities and the newer HTML 5 provides richer experiences, it doesn’t quite hit the expectations consumers and users now have.  So what does this mean? Well it means that the desktop application is not dead, rather it is evolving, throw in the cloud and we can see where things “should” be going…

The Cloud

The cloud and SaaS opens up new doors, especially for “Apps”. Relying on HTML 5 to deliver cloud based applications is simply mad, simply because user’s expectations have moved on. For me, HTML 5 is simply 2 years already too late. The solutions then should be delivered in “app” type fashion, and this is where I believe Silverlight and Flash will lead the way. Both can deliver almost desktop type solutions and user expectation, but be deployed over the web. With Silverlight you can run it within the browser or out of the browse, as if a real desktop application installed on the machine. This surely is the way to go…

I know Apple goes on about HTML 5, but do we really believe that Apple sees people using HTML 5 apps on their iPad, when a user can access a far better experience, more features etc. by simply using the “App” for that?

Web Services

Good old web services play a pivotal role here, allowing any form of application (desktop, HTML 5, Silverlight, Flash etc) to communicate and essentially “work”. It seems that all these technologies are starting to “align” which means that these are exciting times…

One architecture for all?

With the cloud, web services and the drive for apps, we essentially have a single architecture that is already drawn out for us for so many different types of solutions. The only down side is that “apps” need to be developed for individual platforms, though Flash and Silverlight cover a few of the basis. But, “Apps” are essentially the front end of the solution, all the work is still being done down in the engine room and via web services, so it’s not as big of an issue as many may try and claim.

New ways of doing business

This architecture, and mobile devices, along with their apps, opens up so many new avenues for the ways in which we communicate, we consumer content, we play and how we work. It even means so many business processes that we believe are fixed in “stone” can be changed, and be changed for the better and at a cost that isn’t astronomical.

I think Apps, along with the cloud and web services will change the way in which so many day to day processes and tasks are done, I also firmly believe that there are a number of technologies in the pipeline that will take too long to evolve and will be overtaken by the “app” monster…I feel the big HTML 5 could well be one of them, with many organisations not investing in new HTML 5 websites, or applications, rather opting for real “Apps” leveraging web services…

What do you think will suffer at the hands of apps?

It would be interesting to know what other budding technologies, or big ideas, that you think may potentially fall by the wayside, because we now have such an architecture and consumer expectation for Apps…



3 responses

31 08 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, mobile APPS are not about in which language they are coded. They are about the development, sales, and deployment ecosystem. I don’t see Silverlight or Flash providing any of that …

31 08 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Max I dont disagree with you, but I think you are missing some of the point, and I am not limiting this to mobile phone Apps….

Silverlight, for example, means a developer can deliver desktop “Apps”, as well as mobile device “apps”. It also means the deployment of that app is simple, with Windows phone via Marketplace or simply over the web using HTTP. Silverlight the technology enables software companies to deliver rich app experiences for the desktop and the mobile device with the same skillset…

I think that cuts down on development costs for businesses, and drastically speeds up development lifecycles. It also makes maintenance and administration far easier. This is where Silverlight as a technology can help with the whole “app” type experiences. I dont see HTML 5 being able to deliver the user experience across a multitude of devices that we now come to expect from rich “Apps”

31 08 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, thanks for replying. I agree that a modern application has to cover both mobile and PC. It will however not be the same application, because of touch versus mouse and varying screen real estate. I haven’t seen a Flash or Silverlight application that scales or handles that in any way automatically. And believe me we tried with Flash.

We thus created a special abstract user interface definition calles EYE that gets transformed to the target technology (iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux, browser, Sharepoint, …) while the business user can modify interaction (not function) himself to match his needs. That still does not handle the deployment of changes in the frontend and in the backend interface and especially when you try to cover all of the platforms at the same time.

I insist that it is a management issue and not a programming technology issue that makes the difference. To bring down development lifecycles you have to do away with programming and thus the relevant skillset is that of the business user and not of the programmer. How can one create an application that does not need coding to deliver innovation? How can it offer an unlimited set of variants in GUI, content and process without coding? All these are management issues and not coding.

But we agree on HTML5. We are working on an HTML5 frontend and I agree that it can not be used to deliver a standalone APP. It seems that it can be used to deliver a configurable browser frontend, no more.

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