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Will AJAX Replace the Desktop?

  • December 29, 2005
  • By Andre Charland
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Where will we see desktops taking advantage of the web?

The world of desktop applications will benefit greatly (and already have) from the use of web services and SOA. And we will continue to see more integration of these two worlds. Already we are seeing desktop apps consuming rich content facilitated by the Internet such as iTunes, and desktop apps that will integrate with online with AJAX-based services like Live.com and MS Office.

In terms of penetration and adoption rates for new apps (web based), AJAX takes the cake. No other technology has entry barriers as low - all you need is a browser and an Internet connection. Furthermore, many AJAX applications will experience the benefits of network effects far faster than client apps since adoption can take place that much quicker.

Where will AJAX create new service opportunities?

Look at Google maps - no user could have all the mapping, images, and business/address listing data on their local desktop. Further the concept of mashups, which is a website or web application that seamlessly combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience, would not work if users had to install a plug-in or something every time they want to combine different data sets. Even if a client application had the data they couldn't keep it as up to date nearly as easily as web-centric app.

Collaboration will be incorporated into applications like never seen before. Systems like Writely, once adoption picks up, will change the way we think about office type applications. From the start all applications have a common platform, the browser, and speak common languages (XML, HTML, etc.) this means that as these small applications evolve it will be much easier to integrate them. Currently MS Office integrates well with itself and if you use SharePoint it works pretty well for collaboration. However, this depends on massive amounts of software to be installed on each client and pretty intensive server infrastructure to boot. But web apps should improve this experience and AJAX will make those web apps usable.

Using the power of the data services on the web combined with the power of the rich AJAX UI’s and real-time collaboration applications will change forever. Documents and data sets will seem much like leaving evolving content than a static view or piece of paper.


What does the future of software look like? Well the crystal ball is a little bit foggy right now, as it always is. But I think a period or rapid change is upon us. We will definitely see a proliferation of new web-based applications thanks to the usability enhancements of AJAX. And from where AJAX stands today we will make some major improvement as the developer community continues to work together. We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now. However, I think the power of the desktop will continue to reign in certain application spaces and may in fact never disappear.


1. Michael Mahemoff's Blog and Podcast.

About the Author:

Andre Charland has been involved in Internet software development for over ten years. He is the President and Co-Founder of eBusiness Applications (http://www.ebusinessapps.com), which he founded in 1998 with Dave Johnson. His primary areas of expertise include usability, marketing, project management, and component-based software development methodologies. All formal education has been from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC where he studied computer science and business administration. Andre has been involved in hundreds of Internet projects in the role of programmer, manager, and strategist to designer.

You can find Andre’s blog at http://blogs.ebusiness-apps.com/andre/.

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