Who Killed the Desktop Application?

I've sworn by Microsoft Streets and Trips for years, since the late 90's. I make a point of installing the latest version of Microsoft's mapping application all our desktop PCs for all our desktop mapping needs. It's also great on laptop PCs; combined with a USB GPS receiver and a laptop, Streets and Trips is a fine navigational aid on trips. Well, assuming you were going to take the laptop on your trip anyway, which I always do.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/06/who-killed-the-desktop-application.html

"disconnected use"
Even that’s coming under attack with things like Google Gears (http://gears.google.com/)
The interesting thing I find about Google Gears is that, once a page has been downloaded and saved, there is no different way of navigating to it when off-line. You don’t then have to switch to finding it in the start menu or anything. It’s still in exactly the same place - just type the URL.

The comparison used (getting directions) is interesting because, unlike a lot of web innovations that are just much easier to do with menus and buttons etc., it is still very simple to do using existing desktop toolkits.

“Streets and Trips will still be helpful in one very specific situation: disconnected use with a laptop and/or a GPS.” - who knows, with Google Gears I imagine even this statement will become less true - perhaps we’re not quite at the stage where the whole world street map is going to be cached offline but we are getting there.

Good article, and good points raised that desktop app developers would do well to bear in mind… bring on Apollo/Gears :slight_smile:

Desktop apps will never die, they’ll just change

Desktop apps will most certainly die if they evolve as slowly as Streets and Trips has. On some level, it’s outright laziness to adopt innovations that emerged from the web world. As Scott said-- it’s not so much a death of desktop applications as it is a suicide.

I ran into this a couple of weeks ago while travelling with my laptop, Streets and Trips 2007, and a GPS receiver. My poor girlfriend was absolutely befuddled by ST and when I tried to help her I realized I didn’t understand what it wanted either. It’s needlessly complex and obtuse to use. I was really shocked at just how obnoxious it was.

The problem with Google Gears and disconnected use is that there’s no way it could store all the maps to everywhere on your PC. You still would have to access the 'net to fetch the maps, or maybe pre-load them before leaving.

This is an especially prescient post considering Apple announced Safari for Windows today, along with promoting Safari as “the way third-parties can build applications for the iPhone”. It seems JavaScript is the wave of the future.

I still find that desktop apps are much more useful in most situations. For example, office suit is much better (being MS Office or Open Office) than any web counterpart. They offer many more features and are not susceptible to most web related issues (although they have their own).

But it is true that most desktop apps can learn a lot from the streamlined web interface. I find that google’s greatest advantage is the easy of use (a consecuence of the streamlined interface).

As a matter of fact, I would love to see a book about these kinds of interfaces (design, not implementation). Does anyone knows about one??

“Streets and Trips is free to harness the complete power of the desktop PC” Not 100% true.

Most people would complain if everytime they ran ST their computer they were unable to run anything due to it being a process hog. Whereas GM harnesses the much bigger processor resource of a data centre for the grunt work and all you PC has to do is display it. Oh, and use a lot more of your broadband (watch out for those “Fair usage” limits).

Online apps dominate for any reference material, including maps. The rate of change is just too high, and the feature set fits the web well. Google has been awesome in this space. Maps is one area, but look at dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc too. Who would use a printed or CD-based encyclopedia these days?

I think other markets will continue to require a desktop presence. Can’t see trading in my development tools for a web version. Office tools like word processing and spreadsheet are available on the web, but they suck and I don’t see their use growing much beyond a novelty.

Other markets are a mixed bag. Games for example, clearly the graphics and whatnot requires a strong desktop presence, but having an on-line component is becoming a must-have for games these days. Even console games are heavily influenced by and online presence…


Does that 3 seconds include opening your browser?

re: google reader…

Then again, I HATE desktop-bound RSS readers. I completely gave up on them a couple of years ago. I regularly use about three different machines (work desktop, home desktop, laptop) and trying to keep RSS software in sync would be a nightmare. Google reader might suck (I don’t know, never used it) but Newsgator Online is fast and has every feature I need…


“Apple announced Safari for Windows today, along with promoting Safari as “the way third-parties can build applications for the iPhone”. It seems JavaScript is the wave of the future.”

My gut tells me that Safari on Windows combined with AIR using WebKit AND third-party development on the iPhone being done against Safari is going to be much, much more significant than we realize right now.

Was this really published June 7 or is there a bug in your CMS?

At risk of sounding like a Mircosoft lackey I’d like to reccommend that you try the Microsoft Local maps web counterpart (http://local.live.com). I find it much better than Google maps. In fact the beta Yahoo! web maps are better too. I will give Google maps props for being the first Ajax style maps system and really spawned some of the others with that competition but it hasn’t really kept up with the innovation of the others.

I will say the new Google street level view is pretty cool however. I can’t believe they really intend to scan the entire worlds roads though… so I’m guessing the usefullness will be pretty limited to people living in major cities. I really like the Birds Eye View style aerial photographs on local.live.com even better though. I mean, being able to see the street at a low level is neat but being able to see the whole block at an angle and extremely zoomed in is probably more useful in reality. Also local.live.com has much better mechanisms for storing your locations and saving your custom markings and also it has (the best feature of all) the auto refresh on your searches based on your view region. You just type in “food” then drag and zoom around to get a refresh of your searches for the new region. Very wonderful.

If I’m disconnected I just go to sleep anyway.

I think the biggest problem for online applications is lack of privacy(specially for internal documents stored in googles office), at least on desktop you can try to achieve it

Try AAA’s mapping site. It’s even nicer than GM (for road travel) and it’s free to.

Google and O’Reilly did. By killing the excitement around desktop apps to sell more ads and books respectively.

Interesting graphics: both the pushpin and Google’s arrowhead point to the middle of the road. I don’t know about other people, but when I want to go somewhere it is pretty important to know on which side of the street it is.