Computer software technology evolves in cycles of 5 to 10 years. Stay in the business long enough and you will see it come full circle...several times. Dan Bricklin invented the first client based (Apple) spreadsheet called VisiCalc and has now built a cool web based spreadsheet called WikiCalc.
In the past 25 years we have seen evolutions from proprietary main frames, to mini-computers, to personal computers, to client server applications, to web based applications, and everything in between.
During these transition times there is always a raging debate about which architectural approach, (client, server, or client/server) is better. The arguments are always binary, good vs bad. Rich clients are better. No, web based server applications are the only way to go. The zealots are single minded in their arguments.
Ray Ozzie has been a major player in several of these evolutions with Lotus Notes and Groove Networks. Today, Ray is CTO of Microsoft and is driving the vision of a blended approach that leverages the best of each architecture in a software continuum. Listen to this quote from a speech Ray gave this week at Microsoft TechEd.
At times of disruption like this there are always extremists. Twenty-five years ago, at the beginning of the PC revolution, some predicted the death of the mainframe, because of the PC. Now there are extremists who believe that every application will be accessed through a browser, and that everything will move to this computing cloud, that your enterprise data center will go away, that you'll trust third parties with your business information, and systems.
Microsoft is taking a very pragmatic approach; a seamless, blended, client-server-service approach. We want to make sure that you can easily transition client and server-based applications to services, or vice-versa. Our services won't be disconnected from existing applications, but instead are going to be designed to complement and extend our Windows and Office platforms to the Internet.
Under the name Live, we'll provide a blend of desktop software, server-based software, and our own enterprise service offering, and our partners' offerings, enabling you to make the right tradeoffs that make the most sense for your business. One notable example of this client-server-service synergy can be found in our approach to information management and search. Our goal is to provide the people within your organization a simplified, unified way of getting at the information that they need, no matter where it resides.
We showed one key aspect of this concept a few weeks ago in the form of Windows Live Search. Windows Live Search essentially brings together in one user experience the ability to find information on your PC, find information in SharePoint, and in your enterprise applications, and find information out on the Internet. For example, a sales rep might need information about a customer. Utilizing Windows Live Search, she could find all the relevant results, even from within enterprise applications, in one view, with just one query.
The seamless, blended, client-server-services approach makes intuitive sense. However, making it all work together seamlessly is not as easy as it sounds. Microsoft is working hard to demonstrate how this can be done. To show how users can use the power of the desktop in their office, the always available nature of web based apps, and the mobility of web services delivered to wireless devices. And most important, to keep all your computing devices and data in synch. This "always up to date" synchronization idea was the key concept of Groove Networks and Ray is bringing that Microsoft across every product line.
You are seeing the results of this blended client-server-services vision now with Live, and will see it in future releases of all Microsoft products. It just makes sense!