In 1983, as an analyst for a respected information technology industry marketing research organization1, I once had a debate with another analyst on how to classify a database management system. Was it “application software” or an “operating system”?
I argued that applications, or at least the processing logic of applications, were being built in the database language, SQL, and this made it part of the application software arena. My counterpart argued that database management systems controlled access to the disk hardware to the extent2 that no file system was required. I said that the “file system” was separate from the “operating system”3, could possibly be considered “application software” by itself, and so on, and so forth. I lost that argument in 1983, but I think today an analyst would be hard-pressed to succeed in convincing anyone that a database was an operating system. In fact, today’s virtual software platforms turn present day “operating systems” into “application software”.
IBM‘s VM operating system was just beginning to take shape in 1983. Today, most companies are relying on VMWare to run their businesses and not looking back. Desktop operating systems are even being “deployed” via VMWare to terminal emulators, now called Internet browsers. How the evolution of CICS became Chrome today was a world-wide cooperative effort.
But is the Internet browser dead? Apple’s venture into the touch-screen user interface powered by client-based code, and Google’s foray into the same architecture with Android, has brought the “fat client” back. With Apple it worked because they controlled the hardware and limited the user interfaces to a small number of dimensions. Android has since blown that away in market share and a plethora of screen dimension choices and accessory options that create insurmountable cross-platform testing challenges.
There is a New Hope. After ten years of existence, HTML5 and CSS3 are finally getting some attention. These two new standards bring back the Internet browser to the application software domain because they support a wide variety of user-interface controls, while providing greater control over adaptation to displays. This forethought occurred before the invention of the iPhone because such is the evolution of software.
To stay ahead of these changes, reduce your ever-redundant software development efforts, and truly empower your staff to seek out new applications, boldly solve the backlog of end-user demands, and breath new life into your business processes, you need to rethink the Internet browser as the primary user interface for your applications.
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