Rich And Thin At Last


In real life, the saying that you can never be too rich or too thin is a widely accepted axiom. In computing, however, just about every application is either too thin or too rich.

This situation arises from the fact that there are basically two types of applications that dominate the landscape: rich client applications built on top of traditional Windows clients, and thin Web-based applications that are housed on servers across the Internet.


MICHAEL VIZARD Can be reached at (516) 562-7477 or via e-mail at mvizard@cmp.com.

This situation is acceptable until we start considering the needs of the mobile computer user. Most applications for mobile computer users are too thin to be really useful. Part of the problem is the fact that the previous generation of mobile devices were built on top of lightweight processors, and intimately connecting the applications on those devices to server-based applications on the Web has been a difficult, frustrating experience.

The good news is this scenario is about to undergo a welcome transformation. Last week Intel began pushing the concept of occasionally connected computing as part of its Centrino campaign. Intel's success with Centrino is far from assured, but the concept of occasionally connected computing is a powerful one.

Where this concept will manifest itself is in application development tools from companies such as Macromedia and Iona. Macromedia plans to soon launch a new version of its Flash software that essentially will be a container for rich applications running on mobile platforms. This means that for the first time, a developer can create a rich application that runs on a mobile device and then easily synchronize any changes made in the client application with server applications using the streaming technology that is at the heart of Flash. Similarly, Iona is rolling out a new version of its middleware tool that synchronizes occasionally connected applications on mobile devices with existing legacy applications.

Both tools are great examples of what can be done using a service-oriented architecture for application development. It may be another year before we see the tangible benefit to everyday mobile applications, but, nevertheless, the industry as a whole is about to take a significant leap forward.

Are you listening? Do you agree? I can be reached at (516) 562-7477 or via e-mail at mvizard@cmp.com.