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January 27, 2010



A problem with rich -- and we saw (and see) a lot of this in Ajax apps -- is richness for its own sake. There are plenty of apps on the Web where every gesture -- click, hover, anything -- results in _some_ sort of behavior, often unexpected or unwanted behavior. How many times have you cursed some stupid popup window or menu because it jumped out of nowhere to obscure what you were trying to read?

Certain applications don't necessarily benefit from rich. Google of course proved this, in spades, with its deliberately spare search page, which (lest we forget) replaced a host of predecessors that featured a lot of junked-up UI. How rich does a function like Web search need to be exactly? (IntelliSense is a welcome addition. I guess.) How rich does Windows Explorer need to be, or your basic text editor? How rich does Microsoft Word need to be, UI wise?

I'm not disagreeing that client-based functionality can run circles around the kludged-together functionality represented by HTML + CSS + Ajax + add-ons. Or that you'd want to create Microsoft Expression or Microsoft Word, for that matter, using a Web-based interface. But I don't think richness, client-based or otherwise, is always an inherent good. And by extension, I don't think that the simple dichotomy of rich-v-reach addresses every dimension of the decision-making for app building.



hey Mike -- was hoping you'd comment on this actually :).

First I'd agree there are a continuum of apps, and some (lower-fidelity) apps are probably suitable for the browser. Just as there are 'casual games' and hardcore games, with different expectations and (typically) different delivery mediums (think Java or Flash games vs XBox), so there are 'casual' apps that are a hand-in-glove fit for the browser. They definitely exist.

I'd also agree that 'rich' by itself of course does not make a good app... it's just a tool/toolset, not the finished product.

I do think though that good UX (a simple UX for search/Google, as you mentioned) is a separate issue from rich/reach. I can create a simple and to-the-point UI in rich, too.

I'd put it this way: I can create virtually anything I want/any kind of app with a platform-appropriate rich client platform. The same certainly cannot be said for reach/web apps.

so I could live with just rich apps, even if it seems like overkill in a few cases. I don't think I could live productively with just web apps.


>I can create virtually anything I want/any kind of app with a platform-appropriate rich client platform.

True enough. (Browsers are, after all, rich apps that host reach apps.) But until rich is standard -- like HTML, for better or worse -- you're not necessarily guaranteed a platform in every place you want to reach. That's precisely the appeal of reach -- you don't need to worry what platform your client is running on. It doesn't seem likely to me (might be wrong) that there will anytime soon be a client platform that's as ubiquitous as HTML + CSS.

I'm also curious to what extent richness is actually that interesting in LOB apps. Obviously, apps where the graphics are paramount (games) or have real utility (graphical design software) must have richness. But insurance claim entry forms, task lists, etc. -- ? (And what percentage of apps out in the day-to-day world are of that ilk? Significant, if not a majority, I would wager.)


Having worked on a rich (and reach) client for Dynanmics for 3 years (which shipped in several versions of Dynamics 2009), I'd say there is definitely real utility in having richness in LOB apps. Even having good control over things like tab order with lots of embedded controls is a big deal.

My point about feeling like you're in control and not fighting the tool also applies to users sitting in front of LOB apps I think.

The appeal of reach you described is real, but that's a benefit for the developer, not really for individual users. iPhone apps are great because they're native on the device and use the affordances.

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