Tag Archives: Chrome OS

About application developers, platform licensing and bananas.

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I took the time yesterday evening to catch up with my reading, and came across some great posts about Application Platforms. Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri was inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” and posted “Do Application Developers Need To Change Their Ways?”. He makes four recommendations to application developers – Understand the business in your bones”, “Be a developer not a coder”, “Use new technologies, but only when they make a difference”, and “Become Architects again”. As someone who evangelizes the abstraction of technological issues as a way to facilitate quality application development with a focus on the business solution, I am fully in agreement with Mike’s post. My recent post about A broader perspective on Google’s CHROME OS is very much along the same lines.

Another entry that I found highly relevant is John Rymer’s “Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads” (also on the Forrester blog). John relates to the recent work he did with Mike on CEP platforms, and forwards the argument that Platform vendors should offer unrestricted downloads for developers, in order to encourage them to adopt the platform and use it in production projects. And as far as survival goes, those vendors would collect revenue “as serious shops come back for deployment support including paid licenses”. We have the same passionate discussion time and again at Magic Software, in each licensing and pricing policy meeting. It is much easier said than done, in particular when your core product is the Platform. Megavendors such as Microsoft or IBM can and do promote much of their development technologies as lost leaders, compensating the freebies via (sometimes hefty) licenses on other parts of their technology that are required to complement the application environment. Most pure play vendors cannot afford that luxury, and in order to continue and innovate and support their operations they need to get revenue from almost any value added activity they perform. And when it comes to Open Source, the harsh reality is that there are very few vendors in this space who manage to survive independently for an extended period – most flare and then are either acquired or just fade away.

Let’s take both posts together – after all, it’s all about application development and John and Mike jointly report about it. Paraphrasing on Jackson’s song, Mike asks “What if application development professionals look in the mirror? What changes would you make to develop better applications?”. They also report that “Developers consistently tell us they want unrestricted platform downloads — no time bombs, no forced contacts with the vendor’s sales staff, no limited-function versions”. Let me take this reasoning boldly further. In other words, those developers who want unrestricted free platform downloads should be willing to do their own development work for free – hoping that their employer would find their work useful enough to pay them for subsequent support! Or maybe they should look in the mirror, and apply the same criteria they’d like for themselves to their fellow developers who develop platforms.

There’s also something to be learned from the banana merchants and the Max Havelaar foundation (incidently, the original story is related to Java – the island…). The foundation promotes fair trade and pay, and certifies that a minimal fair portion of the revenue from agricultural products from developing countries reaches the farmers who produced it. In the supermarket, Max Havelaar branded bananas are a bit more expensive than the non certified ones, yet they are very popular and sell well.

Would you rather buy Max Havelaar bananas? How about seriously evaluating a non-production version of an application platform that supports Mike’s recommendations?

A broader perspective on Google’s CHROME OS

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Following the Chrome OS announcement by Google and the hype it generated, I was asked be several people to comment on it. If you lean back and take a certain perspective, it is fascinating to realize how well it fits into the long term technology lifecycle evolution. Having hated History classes as a student, I’m becoming increasingly impressed by the insights it can provide as years go by…

What we see in computing technology is that initially, new features and products are delivered as independent products. Features that become successful and ubiquitous evolve in functionality and become more generic, often ending up as an infrastructure or Operating System option. One of the most dramatic examples that I experienced was the Image Viewer (that is today part of Windows) for TIFF images. In the early 90’s, when Document Imaging was introduced, you could only scan and view documents using specialized hardware accelerators (a dominant vendor was Kofax). The extra cost to support TIFF viewing on a PC was close to $2000, plus an expensive monitor. Many Document Imaging companies (mine included) made a lot of revenue developing and selling Software viewers, reducing user costs by half. Finally (about 8 years later), Microsoft purchased the TIFF viewer that Wang developed and incorporated it for free within Windows.

The evolving Internet now brings about Cloud Computing, and many new features and products are gaining wide adoption (I refer to this in my “living in SOA” post). The Browser was very material in making that happen. The Browser can be considered as a window to the internet. But as more and more users expect to use net-native applications and devices, the Browser is clearly outdated and underperforming. After all, it was designed to display information – not to contain and execute business logic.

What users want now is a door to the internet – designed for bi-directional exchange and more, not just for browsing. Some vendors with extensive web application experience already understood that, and have come up with alternatives to the Browser that support Rich Internet Applications – such as Adobe Air, Microsoft Silverlight or Magic Software uniPaaS RIA. These are very compact engines (the uniPaaS RIA Client is only 2MB) that are designed to execute net-native applications, where the application code resides “in the cloud” (like portals) yet the user gets a rich interactive desktop experience (unlike portals). As I describe in “A battle royale for RIA market” however, developing applications for most of these “new doors” is pretty complex. A handful of vendors started addressing this hurdle, led by Magic Software with uniPaaS and maybe followed by Microsoft with ‘Alexandria’

Google Chrome OS seems to be right in the same evolutionary line. From the scant information I was able to get, it is trying to move all those hurdles down into the OS level and abstract them from users, so that users and application developers would be able to once again focus most of their effort on business logic and user experience rather than on underlying technologies. But we have to be patient and wait for it to become available. And then wait a few years for it to mature.

In the meantime, why not go ahead and use what’s available? After all, history also shows us that those companies who used the early Document Imaging products and systems did gain competitive advantages and developed their business, independently of what became possible later.