Monday, November 13, 2006

Installing Desktop Apps vs. Installing Web Apps

Who wants to download a 15MB installation file and take 5 minutes to install a classic desktop application? Especially when its so easy to point a web browser to a super spiffy web application. For instance, I could download and install a desktop collaboration tool like Groove-- which used to come in around 30MB or so before it became 'Officized.' Or I could just use a SharePoint server and my browser, which saves me the trouble, right?

Right. But did you ever wonder how many bytes that web application might take? IE7 has a nifty feature that allows you to save a web page to your local disk in a single file that contains everything the web page needs to render. I tried it on the standard SharePoint 2003 entry page for a document workspace. I saved it and noted it took 715K. Other than about 10 members, this was basically a stock document workspace page. 715K.

Let's see, 30MB / 715K == about 42. Other than being a most amazing coincidence in the universe of Douglas Adams, it means once I've look at a SharePoint document workspace page 43 times I've actually downloaded more bytes than it would have taken to install a comparable desktop based collaboration tool.


What do you think the sum byte total of all web application page views are? Doesn't it strike you as similar to uninstalling an old mini-app and installing new mini-application with each URL click? Could there be a tipping point where it actually makes more sense to install a desktop app? Perhaps Douglas Adams knew something we didn't and 42 really is the answer.

For whatever reason, the browser has been able to better define application installation/uninstallation than the operating system. And its such a huge, overwhelming advantage that entire industries are making fortunes exploiting the gap.

Sooner or later the old dog will have to learn a new trick.

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