Wednesday, August 25, 1999

Server Side Data and Networked Clients

Data on the server side is the future.

Ideally, the user would have a complete data environment that is accessible by various means by various devices.

Imagine that you could log in from any Internet capable appliance and access your data. Work with your programs.

Why, for example, do you need to lug around your Compact Discs from your home to your car and back?  When you purchase music, it should be stored digitally on some server somewhere so that your car stereo, your walkman, your computer, and your home stereo system could easily access it.

All commonly used devices that revolve around the use or storage of data will rely on the network for data storage and retrieval. This includes walkmans (music), cell phones (phone book), cordless phones (phone book), computers (documents, spreadsheets, and other application data), TV's (as vcr-replacements for movies).

Imagine the potential growth in revenue for the movie rental business:

First of all, why do you need a Blockbuster store in order to find a good movie to rent?  All you do at the store is read the movie titles, look at the pictures on the box, and read the summary. So...get rid of the store. Replace it with a smart, searchable, interactive online catalog with movie previews, etc.

Second of all, why do you need to manufacture video tapes?  The movie can be distributed to you blockbuster account via the network.  Get rid of the distribution costs.  No more video tapes.  No more trying to calculate the popularity of a movie in order to produce and distribute the "right number" of tapes.  If 800,000 people want Jurassic Park, they will get it.  If 1 person wants a small, no-namer B-Film, they will get it.  Blockbuster could perfectly supply the demand of its customers!  How incredibly efficient; analog companies that build and distribute physical devices (Sony, HP, Honda, Kenmore) can only dream of achieving this!

Applications will be on the server side, but in what form?

The benefits of an application being on the server side are distribution and maintenance. Installations and updates would not have to be done on a company's 2000 workstations. The applications would just be accessed by each workstation. Also, the application provider could log and analyze all user activity with the application. This could result in huge improvements in the design (and therefore, the usability) of applications (Yeah!).

Technologies such as JAVA were developed to achieve this goal.

Approaches to outsourcing access to applications like Microsoft Office via a web-browser are very mickey-moused. Applications such as Office were developed to run on the desktop. They were developed to run on some flavor of Windows. These implementations of Windows-apps gone Server Side will be very inefficient and extremely not user friendly. Office running in a Web Browser!? Give me a break!? Tell me, for example, what does the BACK button (on the browser) do?

Some "Browser" (meaning a tool that allows certain programs to run) needs to be developed without any "standard navigation" (like BACK, FORWARD, HyperLink, etc). It should only allow maintenance of its environment- like moving screens around, etc.

Of course, this sounds very familiar (MS Windows!).

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