How soon will the pendulum swing back to client side computing?

Client side computing is under mounting pressure to innovate in the areas of user experience, and new technical dimensions. Client side computing also needs to rid itself of the self-destructive economic framework (app stores) that now afflicts its modern side.

Patmore Douglas 9/30/2016 1:14:00 PM

During the course of the web revolution, the PC enjoyed relatively little innovation in the consumer dimension. Which is to say, after the introduction of the Graphical User Interface with Windows, the PC did not experience much user experience innovation. Also, the web made strides in area after area. For example, the web brought an unprecedented amount of information to the fingertips of world’s population, which could be looked up and accessed via search engines such as Google. You could look at pictures of the tallest mountains or the tallest buildings, as well their specifications. You could look at news and movie reviews. You could look up recipes or sacred texts: just about anything you wanted. Services such as YouTube, made available almost limitless sources of video, which sites across the web could incorporate into their content. Blogs, which allow individuals and organizations to publish articles to the web on a regular basis, became, and is still is very popular today. Then came the social revolution. First, users could post comments to articles on web sites, but services such as Facebook and Twitter, made social interaction much more vibrant and dynamic, by making interactions less formal and more immediate.

Now, with the advent of smartphones and tablets, client side computing did make something of a comeback. This happened primarily because of innovations in user experience. However, you never saw the financial success you saw on the Windows desktop. Only a very small percentage of developers of smartphone and tablet applications, made appreciable amounts of money on these new platforms. This had to do with the monopoly app stores set up by the major three owners of client side operating systems: Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Imagine you are a parts company for GM vehicles, and you could only sell your products through a GM megastore. The likelihood of your making a profit would significantly decline, as you would have only one venue to sell your parts. You could not go to different stores and different regions of the country, to obtain the best prices; you would know virtually nothing about your customers, except when they contact you with support questions. Also, you would become subject to regulations, you would have no choice but to abide by.

So client side computing has enjoyed user experience innovation over the last couple of years, which has allowed it resurge in the form of smartphones and tablets. This however has been stifled by totalitarian economic systems (in the form of app stores), which have caused smartphones and tablets to see an initial surge, and then peter out, just like you saw with communist regimes of old.  If that isn’t enough, you have Google exacerbating things by driving value away from software in the consumer market, by making its operating systems, Android and Chrome, free, and offering a slew of free services – rather than shoring up its ecosystem, to create value for developers. You also have Microsoft doing something similar, by driving down the prices of its operating systems, and removing differentiating software from its platforms.

So client side computing today is under a lot of pressure from the free web, as well as major players in the ecosystem, who are actively undermining it with their own policies. If client side computing is to make a resurgence, all of the above issues have to be addressed by a company who believes in this kind of software, as well as in free markets for this kind of software.