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During the last months there was much written about HTML5 and many big player (Google, Microsoft,....) are planning to accelerate their HTML5 strategy. Google plans a browser based OS. Microsoft also wants to go in this direction with Windows 8.

What do you think? Is there a chance that classical desktop applications will survive or is the only truth in the future web-(cloud-)based computing?

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closed as not constructive by Amir Rezaei, Walter Jan 26 '11 at 12:42

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This question does not meet enough of our six guidelines for constructive subjective questions. –  Amir Rezaei Jan 26 '11 at 11:11
Which forum here is suitable for such questions? –  Elmex Jan 26 '11 at 11:38
There are many answers in a shout time. I think this topic is worth to discuss! –  Kottan Jan 26 '11 at 11:39
@Kottan I would love if stack exchanged allowed discussion. But it's not there jet. –  Amir Rezaei Jan 26 '11 at 11:54
I think this is a very constructive question and should be re-opened. –  Craige Jan 26 '11 at 13:56

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I don't think there's a chance that classical desktop applications will cease to exist. There are a lot of limits of what can be done on the web, and while for some things - basic document editing - web services can provide a very basic, though poor, approximation (Google Apps vs Microsoft Word - Word is the clear winner), there are things such as Photoshop, where the resources required are beyond what can be reasonably provided in a web service.

And source for Windows 8 being a web-based OS?

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actually photoshop might run faster on a server, as its cheaper for 1000 users to pay 10$ and subscribe to a service that offers a really powerfull server then all of them buying powerfull desktops. Web apps(Google Apps for example) are limited only by the browser's strengths and weakneases.. and Microsoft and Google have their own brosers –  Quamis Jan 26 '11 at 10:14
photoshop would run faster on a server, yes. a server has better hardware and will generally be optimised. however, photoshop will not perform better on a server with 100 concurrent users than on even a bog-standard desktop, if people are doing something remotely taxing on the machine. –  TZHX Jan 26 '11 at 10:17
also, consider a common use for photoshop - dealing with RAW images from a DSLR camera. These files are upwards of 30MB in size, people do not have the upstream bandwidth to deal with such requirements, and broadband continues to be universally asynchronus. –  TZHX Jan 26 '11 at 10:18
@TZHX: don't you mean asymmetric? (asymmetric: upload != download. asynchronous: not synchronized) –  Javier Jan 26 '11 at 11:31
@Joonas - I work on files of similar data size. Hence my massive scepticism that the web will be taking over "everything" as some claim. –  TZHX Jan 26 '11 at 14:05

First of all, Microsoft are not going to abandon the desktop paradigm in Windows 8. Not even in Windows 9 or any time in the near future. It's far too lucrative, and there's simply no reason to do it.

These things go in cycles. We had mainframe-based computing in the past, then personal computers became powerful enough to run things locally. Now we're finding the convenience of web-based deployment and being able to access our data from anywhere outweighs the benefits of a desktop. I'm sure something'll come along that will bring the pendulum back to favoring the desktop again one day.

Or perhaps it won't be the "desktop" as we know it right now, maybe it'll be the tablet computer or embedded device. You just can't predict what will happen in the future.

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+ 1 for you can't really predict –  maz3tt Jan 26 '11 at 9:58
as a general trend, things get smaller:) I'd see the timeline like this: there were the big mainframes, operated by few users, then came desktop PC's as electronics got smaller, then came thin clients as things got even smaller and they connect to the big mainframes to get their data... –  Quamis Jan 26 '11 at 10:17
+1 for these things going in cycles. We've been here before and we will again. –  Philip Regan Jan 26 '11 at 11:32
Nonsense "you can't predict"... the biggest driver of technology is money and desktop apps is where the big money is (because of licencing models). I doubt any mining company is going to simulate their operations on a web app that uses a subscription model! The web has it's place, but it's a limited place. If I make a $10,000 piece of software, you can bet your house I'm going to tie your licence to your MAC address not to your browser cookies! –  Sam Nov 29 '11 at 14:06
@Sam: "desktop apps is where the big money is" -- Tell that to Google. I'm pretty sure mining simulation software is a far more limited market than consumer software... –  Dean Harding Nov 30 '11 at 9:32

Technology possibilities

I think HTML5 is not enough for a lot of more advanced stuff, which if this happens, will drive development more towards technologies like Silverlight and Java for things that are more advanced.

Don't get me wrong - you can do a whole lot more in HTML5/CSS3 than what is possible in previous HTML versions (including xhtml) and CSS2. It might be that it is possible to do most you want to do with HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript, but the development is easier with a desktop application (and possibly Silverlight).

The security aspect

A more serious concern is the security aspect. Desktop applications have easier access to local resources, and for a reason. What if a web application gets rights to directly access your file system, printer, soundcard, screencard, web-camera etc? Of course this will be controlled by security features in the browser platform, but this is something that will be more accessible for hackers if the technology allows access to these resources through a web interface.


And what if you loose your internet connection... You will not be able to run anything on your computer! With desktop application, you can at least write documents, spreadsheets etc. without being plugged in...

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to be fair, we have security issues with those network-connected desktop apps. Putting them on the web just means someone else's computer might get infected, and you'd hope that those people would know how to secure their systems better than Joe Desktop. –  gbjbaanb May 27 '11 at 12:48
@gbjbaanb: Yes, but with most firewall configurations, you have to specifically give access to those applications that needs it. That is mail client, internet browsers, and chatters (MSN, Skype etc). For other stuff, like document editing programs, you strictly dont need to give internet access, but if the software itself is online, you need to give access to online service to give access to your local recources. –  awe Jun 27 '11 at 8:47

There is no way applications like videogames, graphics, video, photo, could go to the web. What I think for the future are shops like the new apple ones for desktop applications, shortcutting the usual retail chain and the shareware hell (both for dev and users).

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Security may be the big concern. But, the move to cloud computing is unstoppable. But WikiLeaks gives us pause.

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While I do believe there's a whole new data storage and processing landscape out there for Web applications that tap into the client's resources through the browser's context or other Web app environments, it's probably way too soon to talk about the impending doom of the desktop application.

I think we're just going through an identity crisis. New beneficial and interesting developments are rolling out in a dangerously fast pace and I often wonder how much of it did we all get to take in.

Take cloud computing for instance. Just because most people have only seen Web applications built on top of/utilizing clouds, they immediately assume that... there probably isn't any viable model for desktop applications to utilize cloud resources or that cloud computing was purposefully built for Web based applications and services in mind? And here's where I'd like to remind you that cloud computing has been the rave these past few years, so I can only guess how much they've taken in from Web Storages or Offline Web Applications for instance?

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Apps will evolve adapting new technologies to survive. There will be a shift to web from desktop as the web become capable and mature. And there will always be backward compatibily. Let's wait and see.

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In a far future I think the "desktop" is dead. But it will be alooooong way until that.

And imho in future the resources will be calculates on server and desktop, an example:

A 3D Game, the rendering will be done on server and send via something like "vod", while the calculation is done on client side.

The scenario: Imagine a rock is falling down and then breaking down into trillion of pieces. The server renders the graphics. While the client calculates where each part has to fall how fast and so on...

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Hmmm, I think nobody can say where the IT will be in 20 years... –  Elmex Jan 26 '11 at 12:32

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