We've been ferreting through Microsoft's job adverts, looking for hints about just what might be behind the viel of secrecy that has risen over Redmond since they started work on the Windows 8 series of operating systems. One came up with something very interesting, that fitted in with conversations we've been having with other IT journalists for some time:
What’s the future of the web?
Here comes the difficult bit.
They’re both right. There are things a well written RIA can do that a web page can’t, and there are things that web page can do that are impossible for a traditional application. With traditional code you need to push new applications to every desktop every time there’s a change. Even .NET’s click-once and AIR’s self updaters don’t make much of a difference – you still need the latest version of the code to get the latest features, and that (with a flagship RIA like Morgan Stanley’s Matrix) can be a hefty chunk to download. At least with a web page, one change and then everyone who uses it can get access to the latest version.
It’s all a trade off. Not every web site suits every user, nor does every RIA have a fully engaged audience. That’s why so much work is going into getting those experiences right, whether its online design tools like Mozilla’s Bespin, or Sketchflow in Microsoft’s Expression or the designer developer workflow between Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. But a web page and an application are outside the operating system, and if web-centric OSes ever become common, they need to have some way of supporting and interacting with the web. That’s why there’s so much interest in Google’s ChromeOS and Microsoft’s Windows 8. They’re going to be the first real operating systems of the modern web.