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I had the privilege of speaking at the southern California IASA (International Association of Software Architects) meeting, and connect with the great group of people there.
I talked about "Software Plus Services" (S+S). In essence it is a vision of the future. Microsoft came up with this "S+S" moniker, but it is just intending to describe a future where all kinds of software working together to provide consistent, seamless, yet targeted experiences for the users.
Granted, S+S can be interpreted as Microsoft's attempt at holding onto the client software market, which also seems a rather lone voice these days in the sea of Web 2.0, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models. But a real relevant question is, what does the future look like beyond Web 2.0 and SaaS? Many Web visionaries have suggested a future where everything is in the cloud (or Web) and provisioned (delivered) via browsers to the end users. And that's still a highly probable future, as browsers will improve in sophistication, and more computing devices will support browsers.
While browser-based applications provide the simplicity in deployment and immediate universal reach, they also represent a one-size-fits-all approach to meet customer needs. For example, most perpetually-beta websites have just one version for all users. The commonly described elegant simplicity in user experience in the primary website is probably good enough for most visitors. However, many organizations are also realizing that they need to deliver different kinds of experiences for different user communities (such as "power users" often higher in value), in order to maintain their relationships and differentiate from competitors.
Thus the question is then, do we build multiple versions of a website for different groups of users, or do we deliver different kinds of software that can provide a higher level of service? Basically, no right generic answer for that question, as both are valid options for different scenarios. But the point here is, it should not seem so far-fetched to evaluate options beyond browser applications at this point.
In fact, many organizations have taken this route to deliver value to their users. For example, eBay has delivered a desktop application for their power users, while an ecosystem of third-party developers also exist that provide different kinds of software applications that plug into the Web services API's eBay offers. There are also recent news of TV manufacturers offering support for direct viewing of content from Youtube (or AppleTV which already has a built-in menu for Youtube). The point is, specialized software implemented to operate beyond the browser platform is showing up in many, many different places. Their goals are simple - to provide a more intuitive user experience for people, by creating targeted and differentiated experiences that link to their core services.
So I think a higher probability exists that the future will not be just "everything run inside the browsers". It will still be the primary means of access for most consumers, but it doesn't have the be the only means of delivery of value to customers.
And this is one of the fundamental aspects of S+S; the power of choice. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach to address all problems, we as architects should be in a position where we can map multiple options to a specific issue, then choose the right combination of options depending on the trade-off evaluations. A spectrum of choices can be viewed as:
And the S+S future vision points out a bigger picture view of things where options that span this entire software spectrum, can be utilized in different combinations to deliver value to end-users.
If you're interested to chat more about this, please feel free to reach out. The slide deck I presented can be downloaded as PPT from the Slideshare.net link above (~20MB), or the PPTX is available on Winodws Live Skydrive (~10MB).
I had the opportunity to participate in Twiistup 3, a local event that connects people from technology, media, and entertainment. Held at a nightclub, it is also a venue where local tech startups can come and show off their work, to potential investors, customers, partners, etc. There were 9 show-offs: Askmenow, Docstoc, MegentoCommerce, OfficeZilla, PeopleJam, RubiconProject, SpeedDate, ThemBid and Yellowbot
We managed to get a show-off space so I went and ran demos and discussed Silverlight with anyone interested, from 7pm until midnight.
During the evening, I also had the privilege of being graced with the presence of Shira Lazar, who presided over the event and interviewed all of the show-offs.
Shira is one of those very few on earth who looks good in just about any picture (and she's smart too!); while I never look good in any picture (pictures courtesy of Mike Macadaan, founder of Twiistup). I'm just glad I can designate myself a geek and call it a day.
Anyway, the evening was a quite party. It was an amazing experience meeting and connecting with so many people working on the Web. It was also a testament to how seemingly simple it has become, to build interactive websites using the various building blocks. People innovating on the Web are now empowered to focus on what to do, as opposed to the how.