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Author Topic: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?  (Read 7579 times)

mouser

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CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« on: October 11, 2006, 07:31:16 PM »
Piece on CNET combining some editorials by web2.0 advocated: "Last hurrah for PC-based software?"

Quote
At this week's Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, start-ups and speakers will be out to prove that a Web browser and online services are all a computer user needs.


JavaJones

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2006, 10:13:13 PM »
Is anyone else rolling their eyes and chuckling? :D

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2006, 10:27:56 PM »
im not a fan of web-based apps but i know people have been saying this is the way of the future for a while now..

JavaJones

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2006, 10:48:29 PM »
Exactly. For a while now. So, either it really is "just around the corner", even though it apparently has been for years, *or* it's really stupid and will always be "just around the corner". :P I just really don't think this is the way to go. Computing as a service doesn't appeal to me. Suppesedly there are market studies that indicate people prefer even more expensive monthly services to buying things outright or paying per use. But I don't know if that fits this model. If the bandwidth, security, and general speed issues can be solved it may become attractive, but I don't think that will happen for at least another full computer generation 5-10 years. And by then we may have gotten used to new things on the desktop that web-based apps again can't provide, so it may perpetuate.

- Oshyan

Lashiec

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2006, 05:17:55 AM »
Say NO to web based apps! ;D

Talking seriously, I don't want to live in a browser, perpetually connected to a big corporation server, with all my data available to every bad hacker around the block... There's market for web based apps, of course, and it's a excellent solution for certain scenarios, but for other things, I really prefer normal software as always.

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2006, 01:44:37 AM »
There will always be real desktop software as long as there are situations where web based apps can't be used.

Such as businesses where they don't want to give employees internet access because they want them to be more productive and not messing around with flash games and forums.  :D

And what about airplanes? You can't use a web based app on your laptop during a flight.

And can you imagine trying to use one on a train when it suddenly goes through a tunnel and your access gets cut off?

broken85

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2006, 02:54:33 AM »
I didn't look much into the conference details, so maybe they weren't really implying that a web browser is truly all a user needs, but if they were then I can't help but wonder how long the load times would be in most new 3d games if they were always streamed from the net - take Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, a new FPS coming out this month, for example; the game is 10 GB. I am downloading it from Steam, but Steam keeps a full cache of the game on the local computer at all times. Even trying to stream a game several times smaller than that would cause huge load times unless ISPs kick up their broadband speeds by several hundred percent.

Not to mention all of the underlying frameworks/technologies behind not just 3d apps, but a lot of software! Is that not physical software in itself? Are most computers not specifically designed and optimized to run integrated software applications? I think running everything out of a web browser is just silly, sort of like owning an expensive high def widescreen projection TV and watching everything out of the PIP window. Why tax the network and leave the true power of the PC untapped?

I think a better approach would be to implement automatic, streamed, silent updates (available Ajax-style rather than scheduled) to applications, drivers, etc. at the OS level. Or for any type of live data a program needs to access. Why stuff everything into the web browser when all the beneficial functions of the browser can be combined with endless possibilities of additional features, usability and accessibility options, and lets not forget what most geeks are looking for--customizability! Modding! Scripting! Automation! SPEED!

"Oh crap, the MS WebOffice 2010 servers are down again! I'll get that sales letter finished when the network clears up..."

Perhaps my scope is too small. I know web browsers will improve and web technologies will probably take over most functions, but I just hope America the world doesn't wet themselves in excitement before the technology is really mature enough to replace everything we love about real software.

-Ben
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« Last Edit: October 14, 2006, 03:01:39 AM by broken85 »

JavaJones

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2006, 05:54:01 PM »
Well everyone is kind of getting all in a tizzy about service-based computing. Sony's PS3 was supposed to be all about that back a few years ago when they first started talking about the "magic" of Cell. I'm glad to see they came back to Earth when it came time to actually implement it. But I don't doubt that's still in their mind.

Let's stop for a moment and remember why this idea is popular, too. It's not because consumers want it. It's because companies do. MS would much rather bill you for every hour you spend using MS Windows or Office than let you pay once and never upgrade because you don't need their fancy new "ribbon" interface.

It's getting harder and harder for most application manufacturers to put compelling new technology and functions into their apps to encourage upgrade. Their profit models are fundamentally based on continuing software purchase, and more than that on continued *growth*, like all good companies in a capitalist system. So they need to increase their market and profit somehow. As the chance to do that through normal, non-forced application updates dwindles, companies are trying other things - service-based agreements where you license software for a certain period of time for example.

The next step is pure web-based, where no amount of cracking and hacking will get around it because the actual app is stored on their servers on their end. It's the ultimate form of DRM and software protection. Never "own" another copy of software or a song again for example, because all devices are connected wirelessly to the central media streaming service, so your portable music player is streaming it, your home stereo is streaming it, your laptop is streaming your Office app, etc. You never own anything physical so you can never copy it. Woo!

So it's no wonder companies are so enticed by this - it's the ultimate assurance of their long-term profit. Everything as a service. But as consumers we should be vehemently opposed to this. There is no good reason that - just because the technology enables it - we should simply accept companies moving everything to a service model. Imagine if cars, houses, everything were this way. Imagine if you had to continue paying $100/mo just to use your car, even after you "pay it off". Imagine if there were no house ownership, only rental. That's the ultimate extension of this.

I don't mean to sound conspiracy theorist mind you, I don't thnk that's where this is going. The point is to use an outrageous example to show how poor an idea this is even for software and music. So, fight the power! :D

- Oshyan

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2006, 01:38:04 AM »
Web 2.0 is about one thing — follow the money. Web "services" is about continuously charging (or advertising) for apps you currently license for your desktop now. The weakness starts and stops at the browser. First, the browser makes a truly lousy desktop, or better, "productivity" client, and second, the browser — all of them — suffer from persistent insecurities and vulnerabilities (as has MS Word over many years).

Finally, web apps have access to the content of your documents, no matter what privacy policy they offer you. Whether you're outlining a business plan or writing a lurid letter to your lover, don't think Google et al. aren't going to try to sell you another penis enlarger kit!

It has its uses, but it's the marketing guys bellowing all the silly headlines you read above.

broken85

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2006, 04:50:37 PM »
Good point zridling. The model does sound logical from a software marketing perspective, but equally illogical from an end-user's point of view (unless one gets sucked in by all the marketing hype).

Perhaps the hope for the future of desktop software lies in the hands of freeware and shareware developers who are actually out there to provide the best product they can. I can see a possible split between two types of shareware apps: time-based upgrade policies and free-for-life upgrades.

The way I see it, the latter will be less likely to approve of a service-based model for the same reasons they chose to give their users free updates for life; because they believe in it themselves. They usually don't have a marketing department or someone whose sole purpose is to make money telling them what to do.

It wouldn't surprise me if a few years down the road most commercial software used a service-based web model to deliver the entire app. I wonder, though, what will happen to retail software in the longrun. Will companies still package the software and distribute it commercially (and therefore probably charge the same price for the package) as well as charge a service fee?

Interestingly, this all relates quite closely to the direction PC games have been headed in.

I don't know how many of the subscribers here are gamers, but the new model sounds a lot like the one used for most MMORPGs out these days. The game itself is sold online or in stores for the same price as other non-MMORPGs, but in order to play the game one must have a monthly subscription, one's character(s) and game information is stored on the company's servers, and the game obviously cannot be played offline. A year down the road, if someone's no longer forking over the monthly payment, they still have the game content but it is completely useless without the subscription service. So what do MMORPG gamers really own?

On a related topic, games in general might be headed in a similar, though much less intimidating, model which is episode-based. Several companies (eg. Valve and Ritual to name a couple),  have lately been releasing, or working on, episodic games in which the user pays a smaller (but not necessarily proportionately so) amount for each episode, which usually includes substantially less content than a full release. The selling point to gamers is that episodes are released much more often than, for instance, full sequels or new games, and that new technologies can be incorporated into the game as they become available. Gamers pay more overall to have all of the episodes, but it is partially justified in that development takes less time. While there are some large variations from a service-based model to this one, it almost seems to be the logical alternative that allows developers to get more money, and more of a constant stream of it.

My related point is that if you add a web-based distribution system to the episodes and throw in some automated billing, you've basically got a "web 2.0" game which requires one to pay regularly for the new content. The difference being that so far the episodes are entire games themselves that one can keep whether or not they are actively buying following episodes, but I wouldn't doubt that's going to change eventually, since it's ultimately the publishers who make most decisions.

My last point relating this to games are the recent "free" (or not) online games you can download that sell things from within them that players buy with real money. In some games this is in the form of "modules" that add new features for a one-time or subscription charge, and in others it's a game with a virtual economy where players pay small amounts for things like in-game clothes, houses, vehicles, weapons, etc. Basically, if you want the full experience, then the game isn't free, and isn't usually much cheaper than standard retail games, if at all.

Anyway, I'm just trying to relate the recent changes that have been going on for a while now in the gaming world to the desktop/web software world. It seems even things which wouldn't do well in a fully web 2.0 environment are capitalizing on the same underlying concept.
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« Last Edit: October 16, 2006, 04:52:42 PM by broken85 »

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2006, 08:03:36 PM »
Did anyone notice that "Browser-based Software" really just boils down to BS?

It will never happen. Nobody will trust anyone else to store their porn. Err... I mean files.

It's a stupid idea and nothing more than the Dot Com Craze all over again.

So get in. Tell your lies. Then steal as much money as you can.

What will happen is that there will be a lot of people burned when they wake up and see that it's just BS (see above) and that they've been royally screwed.

In the meantime, SaaS will be thick clients pulling content and receiving pushed content.

Application architecture will move exactly where Microsoft has laid the framework - to XML based apps. i.e. Web 2.0 in the end will just bet .NET 2.0. Ok, well, 3.0+ or whatever but it just seemed to follow nicer like that :)

Thick clients are fast. Thin networked clients are just slow in every way.

I really hate this entire Web 2.0 BS.

Now. Can I interest anyone in a hit on the ol' crack pipe? ;)
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broken85

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2006, 08:13:29 PM »
I think the fact that the industry will follow MS's lead doesn't exclude a future of web based applications. Since MS is the one that makes Windows, you never know what concepts they'll slowly shift toward. Maybe the entire OS will be browser-based someday, ie. everything built with the same technologies running browsers, with a pinch of Windows GUI for show. Basically the entire idea of .NET shifted several years ahead. A lot of software today is already built with internet explorer components, so it's not even too far away in a sense. I think the main difference is just the level of browser integration.
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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2006, 08:34:28 PM »
On the subject of MMO's, there's a very good reason for the monthly fee: the infrastructure and support costs just in connecting 1000's of users together (not to mention the regular free content updates many MMO's provide) are quite high. The more popular the game, the more costly it is to support on an ongoing basis. This is different than say having to pay Microsoft a yearly fee to continue using Windows, or from paying Google to use their Docs & Spreadsheet system. Google *does* provide an ongoing service like the MMO company - bandwidth, storage space, and some processing power - but it's not something you can't get any other way, that's the real trick. In other words you can easily run Office on your home computer without having to ever pay anyone ever again (except the electric company :D). You can't do that with an MMO because parts of its very nature is connecting to many, many other people at once. The limit of peer-to-peer network gaming for anything 3D has been found to be about 128 clients when hosted on a fast home broadband connection. That will increase over time, but so will the demands of gaming.

I think your points and perspective on episodic gaming are important though, and I do like that model better for those cases. In fact it would be interesting to see a show of hands on who would be interested in seeing more frequent releases of say Photoshop, that you can buy for less, but you have to pay again to get each new release. For those who only need certain functionality it would be a good savings. For anyone who needs the latest-greatest, it would mean more money. I doubt it's a viable model, but interesting to consider.

But you also make an important distinction which I think, as above, is really what distinguishes the "service" model from the "product" model - and that is that with episodic games you keep the game and can replay that episode at any time in the future, as many times as you want. It's not a service you must pay for every time you play. You only pay for *new* content.

Basing everything out of the browser sounds like an amazingly inefficient way to accomplish these kinds of goals in any case. If anything like that does happen I would imagine it would have to be on a refresh of Windows where MS collaborated closely with PC hardware manufacturers to reorient everything toward network-based functionality. Speaking of the PC manufacturers, they are very strong partners for MS. Where would they fit in to a service-based system? Sure they could sell the underlying client system, but it would be fairly light and probably non-upgradeable. That's not where the real money is. A whole industry would be screwed. I don't see it happening. They'd hire private militia's before that would be allowed. ;)

- Oshyan

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2006, 08:40:51 PM »
There may be browser integration, but you just can't have real applications running on some sort of 'web site'. You need a real application server and you still need to off-load everything that takes CPU power onto the client anyways.

I can see more applications using push/pull, but they're not going to run on the server. XML is where it's at for data interchange. But you're never going to do any kind of compression, encoding, decoding or math intensive stuff on a server unless it's an application server for a company. Nobody wants their data in anyone else's hands. That means Web 2.0 will still be the same thing as things are right now, but just with a few minor technology upgrades.

Then there's the reliability issue... Nobody that's sane will trust a third party for important things. Like some one mentioned above, do you want to wait for the network (wireless or whatever) to get back up? Ummm... I need to work NOW - not later. My time is valuable and downtime wastes money. This is why companies buy UPS units. You can't do that for a network though (well, you can, but that's still a bit dubious).
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broken85

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2006, 09:31:13 PM »
You can't have real applications running on some sort of website NOW, but faster internet connections and server/client integration such as AJAX puts the possibilities closer all the time. It's obviously not even close to being a viable business option, but it only takes *some* level of success and good marketing to start a trend these days, and as we can see by Microsoft's interface beef-ups, especially the new "glass" look, they tend to keep trendy. When (IF) major business software, the kind that keeps Windows afloat, start leaning towards this proposed business model, then it would only be in Microsoft's best business interests to take that and run with it. I can't even pretend to speculate when, if ever, that would happen, but it just seems... possible.

.NET seems to me like a "patch" of a new idea built into an old contept. I can only imagine that in the future .net will be a larger part of the operating system, and could potentially support "web 2.0" infrastructures. I don't think that's going to be the entire operating system, because as my posts above indicate, I'm a gamer and think that would be the worst possible thing to happen to games since... well, ever. But for business applications, many of which are already built for .NET, I would imagine the bulk of them will follow along it's development, to whatever end that may be.

I don't "really" know what I'm talking about compared to many of you I'm sure, but that's just how it looks to me.
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JavaJones

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2006, 09:34:48 PM »
AJAX actually works by transferring *more* of the load to the client-side. :D

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2006, 10:41:08 PM »
AJAX actually works by transferring *more* of the load to the client-side. :D
Good point!
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broken85

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2006, 10:52:38 AM »
JavaJones,

AJAX is able to work BECAUSE it transfers the load to the client side; current browser technology can't dynamically change data efficiently without a client side script to actually change the data in the browser. That sounds like more of a limitation than a feature.

It works by transferring small amounts of data between the server and client... essentially running a dynamic app from the server and then displaying it in the client. Without that you're limited to something like ActiveX, or static pages. JavaScript IS the client side.

With current technology I don't see any way to run such applications strictly from the server side since the client side is what displays the data. Seems to me AJAX is the closest thing to it until some truly synchronous methods become accessible without OS-specific controls.
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broken85

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2006, 10:58:04 AM »
Oh yeah, and Flash is another example... loaded from the server but it still has to load whatever it's displaying on the client side... since it's got its own format it goes way beyond JavaScript, but it's essentially similar to Ajax-like technologies in that it gets all of the data from the server and then incorporates it into the client display dynamically (often via XML, just like Ajax).

I'm speaking of this apart from the obvious client-side events such as smooth animation, etc. However the data to create those animations and everything else Flash draws comes from the server and is rendered in the client.
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Ben M
« Last Edit: October 17, 2006, 11:10:20 AM by broken85 »

JavaJones

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2006, 01:12:13 PM »
That's just the point though. With both Ajax and Flash the *data* is loaded from the server-side (this is what servers are good at - serving data) and the *processing* goes on client-side. Although this is not directly rebutting anything to do with the original topic of the thread, the mention of thin clients and whatnot sparked that response. If you had a "fatter" client with servers just dealing with data, and used this to power this future "web 2.0 as operating system" model then maybe it could work, it just seems massively inefficient.

- Oshyan

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Re: CNET: Last hurrah for PC-based software?
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2006, 02:13:32 PM »
For someone who has gone several months without internet access at home in just the past year, I would absolutely hate to have to sign onto the internet just to create or edit a Word document or get access to any of my data. I don't think we'll ever see the end of a local hard drive and local apps for this very reason. The laptop going through a tunnel or on an airplane was also a great example. Although in the sci-fi future, I suppose internet could be transmitted up in airplanes and WiFi signals broadcasted through all train tunnels.

How the media (apps, music, games, movies, etc.) is distributed might very well become download only, but I suspect it will then be installed or stored on the hard drive thereafter.

Web 2.0 is nice for data on the go if you don't have a laptop or are sure you will always have internet access while traveling. That's one reason why I store some of my files online or e-mail myself some files or information--so I can always access it when I am away from my PC--but I think it will take me at least a few more decades and giant leaps in technology (which is expected) before I would trust (as completely as I ever will) the security of all my data being online.