June 7, 2007
I've sworn by Microsoft Streets and Trips for years, since the late 90's. I make a point of installing the latest version of Microsoft's mapping application all our desktop PCs for all our desktop mapping needs. It's also great on laptop PCs; combined with a USB GPS receiver and a laptop, Streets and Trips is a fine navigational aid on trips. Well, assuming you were going to take the laptop on your trip anyway, which I always do.
So I was taken aback when I noticed my wife was using Google Maps on her PC to map something. I asked her why she was using Google Maps instead of our old pal Streets and Trips, and she said, quite matter of factly, "Because it's faster."
Because it's faster?
I tested it myself, and she's right. It takes about 9 seconds to launch Streets and Trips 2007 on my (very fast) desktop PC, compared to about 3 seconds to load maps.google.com in the browser. It's a mixed-up, topsy-turvy world we live in when web mapping applications are now faster and more convenient to use than their desktop equivalents. But it's a fact.
What's worse, Google maps is easier to use than Streets and Trips, too. Here's the location of the DNA Lounge, a club owned by old-school Netscape engineer Jamie Zawinski, mapped in Streets and Trips.
Here's how I get directions to the club using Streets and Trips:
- Right-click the pushpin
- Click Route, add as End
- Navigate to the address entry bar on the toolbar
- Type my home address and press Enter
- Right-click the new pushpin
- Select Route, add as Beginning
- Click the car icon on the toolbar to bring up the route planner sidebar
- Click the Get Directions button
It's an incredible amount of work for what is probably one of the most frequent use cases for mapping software-- getting directions from point A to point B. Let's compare the same task in Google Maps. We're already up 6 seconds since the browser-based app loads in 1/3 the time of the desktop application.
Here's how I get directions to the club using Google Maps:
- Click the "To here" link
- Type my home address and press Enter
There's no reason Streets and Trips couldn't adopt the same conventions as Google Maps. But Streets and Trips seems to be completely stuck in the old world mentality of toolbars, menus, and right-clicking. All the innovation in user interface seems to be taking place on the web, and desktop applications just aren't keeping up. Web applications are evolving online at a frenetic pace, while most desktop applications are mired in circa-1999 desktop user interface conventions, plopping out yearly releases with barely noticeable new features.
This should be an unfair comparison. Streets and Trips is free to harness the complete power of the desktop PC, whereas Google Maps is limited to web browser scripting and HTTP calls to the server. Google Maps turns all those browser-based application weaknesses into strengths, by offering a bunch of online-enabled features that Streets and Trips doesn't: satellite view, real-time traffic data, and the new street view. Plus it's always up to date; we're guaranteed to be using the latest version with the newest features. And unlike Streets and Trips, it's free-- or at least ad-subsidized.
Streets and Trips will still be helpful in one very specific situation: disconnected use with a laptop and/or a GPS. But in every other case, Google Maps is superior. It's faster, it's simpler to use, and it has more features. It's hard not to look at the facts and conclude that desktop applications-- at least desktop mapping applications-- are dead.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Even that's coming under attack with things like Google Gears (http://gears.google.com/)
The interesting thing I find about Google Gears is that, once a page has been downloaded and saved, there is no different way of navigating to it when off-line. You don't then have to switch to finding it in the start menu or anything. It's still in exactly the same place - just type the URL.
The comparison used (getting directions) is interesting because, unlike a lot of web innovations that are just much easier to do with menus and buttons etc., it is still very simple to do using existing desktop toolkits.
"Streets and Trips will still be helpful in one very specific situation: disconnected use with a laptop and/or a GPS." - who knows, with Google Gears I imagine even this statement will become less true - perhaps we're not quite at the stage where the whole world street map is going to be cached offline but we are getting there.
Good article, and good points raised that desktop app developers would do well to bear in mind... bring on Apollo/Gears :)
Desktop apps will never die, they'll just change
Desktop apps will most certainly die if they evolve as slowly as Streets and Trips has. On some level, it's outright laziness to adopt innovations that emerged from the web world. As Scott said-- it's not so much a death of desktop applications as it is a suicide.
I ran into this a couple of weeks ago while travelling with my laptop, Streets and Trips 2007, and a GPS receiver. My poor girlfriend was absolutely befuddled by ST and when I tried to help her I realized I didn't understand what it wanted either. It's needlessly complex and obtuse to use. I was really shocked at just how obnoxious it was.
The problem with Google Gears and disconnected use is that there's no way it could store all the maps to everywhere on your PC. You still would have to access the 'net to fetch the maps, or maybe pre-load them before leaving.
I still find that desktop apps are much more useful in most situations. For example, office suit is much better (being MS Office or Open Office) than any web counterpart. They offer many more features and are not susceptible to most web related issues (although they have their own).
But it is true that most desktop apps can learn a lot from the streamlined web interface. I find that google's greatest advantage is the easy of use (a consecuence of the streamlined interface).
As a matter of fact, I would love to see a book about these kinds of interfaces (design, not implementation). Does anyone knows about one??
"Streets and Trips is free to harness the complete power of the desktop PC" Not 100% true.
Most people would complain if everytime they ran ST their computer they were unable to run anything due to it being a process hog. Whereas GM harnesses the much bigger processor resource of a data centre for the grunt work and all you PC has to do is display it. Oh, and use a lot more of your broadband (watch out for those "Fair usage" limits).
Online apps dominate for any reference material, including maps. The rate of change is just too high, and the feature set fits the web well. Google has been awesome in this space. Maps is one area, but look at dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc too. Who would use a printed or CD-based encyclopedia these days?
I think other markets will continue to require a desktop presence. Can't see trading in my development tools for a web version. Office tools like word processing and spreadsheet are available on the web, but they suck and I don't see their use growing much beyond a novelty.
Other markets are a mixed bag. Games for example, clearly the graphics and whatnot requires a strong desktop presence, but having an on-line component is becoming a must-have for games these days. Even console games are heavily influenced by and online presence....
Does that 3 seconds include opening your browser?
re: google reader...
Then again, I HATE desktop-bound RSS readers. I completely gave up on them a couple of years ago. I regularly use about three different machines (work desktop, home desktop, laptop) and trying to keep RSS software in sync would be a nightmare. Google reader might suck (I don't know, never used it) but Newsgator Online is fast and has every feature I need....
My gut tells me that Safari on Windows combined with AIR using WebKit AND third-party development on the iPhone being done against Safari is going to be much, much more significant than we realize right now.
Was this really published June 7 or is there a bug in your CMS?
At risk of sounding like a Mircosoft lackey I'd like to reccommend that you try the Microsoft Local maps web counterpart (http://local.live.com). I find it much better than Google maps. In fact the beta Yahoo! web maps are better too. I will give Google maps props for being the first Ajax style maps system and really spawned some of the others with that competition but it hasn't really kept up with the innovation of the others.
I will say the new Google street level view is pretty cool however. I can't believe they really intend to scan the entire worlds roads though... so I'm guessing the usefullness will be pretty limited to people living in major cities. I really like the Birds Eye View style aerial photographs on local.live.com even better though. I mean, being able to see the street at a low level is neat but being able to see the whole block at an angle and extremely zoomed in is probably more useful in reality. Also local.live.com has much better mechanisms for storing your locations and saving your custom markings and also it has (the best feature of all) the auto refresh on your searches based on your view region. You just type in "food" then drag and zoom around to get a refresh of your searches for the new region. Very wonderful.
If I'm disconnected I just go to sleep anyway.
I think the biggest problem for online applications is lack of privacy(specially for internal documents stored in googles office), at least on desktop you can try to achieve it
Try AAA's mapping site. It's even nicer than GM (for road travel) and it's free to.
Google and O'Reilly did. By killing the excitement around desktop apps to sell more ads and books respectively.
Interesting graphics: both the pushpin and Google's arrowhead point to the middle of the road. I don't know about other people, but when I want to go somewhere it is pretty important to know on which side of the street it is.
Delorme is similarly stuck in the past - I attempted to use it for creating bike route maps since manually tracing Google Maps at bikely.com was a tedious way to calculate elevation. It's easy to imagine how a modern interface could outshine something where you're tracing roads by hand with a mouse - something like clicking on each intersection with an automatic update for distance, cue sheet, etc. It actually took longer to fight with Delorme's 1997-era interface for adding points and it was often necessary to force the routing engine not to be "smart" in spectacularly stupid ways (e.g. making substantial detours to a 65mph freeway rather than a much shorter jog through a 20mph zone) - and as if the usability hit wasn't bad enough, the maps had lower visual quality and soaked a couple gigabytes to store that inferior data.
Just installing and patching Delorme took longer than tracing a month or two's worth of riding...
Microsoft's Live Maps uses Autoroute's/Streets and Trips' routing engine. It's much better at finding a good route (at least in the UK). Google still tries to route via M4/M25/M1 if travelling from Maidenhead to Northampton.
re: Andy + desktop RSS readers
Funny, I'm the opposite, I HATE web-based readers for their lack of speed and power and ability for me to customize them as I want. I'm a FeedDemon user and love it.
Saying desktop vs. web is a rather simplistic view though, when actually what Newsgator Online and FeedDemon do is the way of the future. You can use FeedDemon, a Windows-based desktop feed reader, with all it's power and speed and yet all your feeds are synchronized with Newsgator Online, so if you are on a machine that doesn't have FD then everything is still kept in sync and viewable from their web-based client.
The power of desktop apps when you're on your main machine with the freedom of going web-based when you need it. That is more the future of products than this us-vs-them attitude of desktop vs. web. In a more general form the real future is service back-ends that both desktop and web-based applications can interact with. For example there is no way you could pay me enough to upload and tag my flickr photos from the web-based UI, it's just too slow when working with large amounts of photos. A desktop app is the only way to do it quickly. Another example is time-tracking applications. I'd much rather work with a widget in my tray to start/stop tasks than an open web-page in a browser.
I suppose it's people's basic nature to gravitate to a two-party/two-opinion/dualistic way of thinking but the real power is when both are combined.
"But Streets and Trips seems to be completely stuck in the old world mentality of toolbars, menus, and right-clicking."
Erm, but that screen shot of GM shows toolbars and that 'more' bit is prolly a menu, the only thing that GM lacks is right-clicking, and Apple has had that 'advantage' for quite some time.
As a tangent, am I the only one who thinks all of this 'rethinking' of the WIMP paradigm has produced alot of user interfaces that are fairly similar to the user interfaces that are used in games?
What I find striking is the usage of multiple 'pages' to represent different aspects of the domain (as in 'Search Results' 'My Maps'), games are rife with these type of views.
It's the feedback cycle, something a web application does particularly well at.
Secondly, being a free service, users don't have the expectation that a user interface remain stable. This makes an app easier to change and adapt the user interface.
The bit about data intensive is important as well... refer to Jim Gray's talk about querying astronomical data.
The power of a universal browser plus URLs is means that web-based Maps is viral, and exposes more users to their user interface, thus perpetuating the virtue of feedback.
But when you use Google Maps, you are getting computer time on a machine that is way better than your own, or a combination of machines anyway. I'm not surprised it's faster, although there is no reason why Google's thing should be any *better*
and even if you don't have your laptop with you, you can still use Google Maps on your Java ME enabled phone.
One feature that I really use a lot in google maps is "my maps" where I can store my points of interest and access them wherever I am.
Oh yes, the answer to your question: Internet killed the desktop application!
Does that 3 seconds include opening your browser?
Do you close your browser ever? :)
hgs - I would assume that he just looked up the address and it marked it. It's more trouble than it's worth to get the software to understand what end of the road the numbers start at, the size of each house on the road and all the oddities in order for it to even mark which side of the road that it's on. If you want, you can move the pushpin manually to better reflect the exact location.
Thus proving that a bad interface is a bad interface ?
The Google Maps interface does not have to be good and the Streets and Trips interface does not have to be bad, it's just good design on Google's part and lazyness on the part of Microsoft?
I must say I have used google maps (and similar) on the web and used desktop mapping apps on my PC, but have not even heard of Streets and Trips? I suspect it is the usual "why should I buy a limited desktop app when I can use the up to date online version for free?"
As a tangent, am I the only one who thinks all of this 'rethinking' of the WIMP paradigm has produced alot of user interfaces that are fairly similar to the user interfaces that are used in games?
True. While regular desktop and office applications focus on functionality and then try to make it all accessible to user, important side of games design is easy and pleasant interface, because games must be fun, bring pleasure and relaxation.
To be fair, I've seen both elegant applications and ugly games. But they are quite rare.
But mapquest's interface is somehow good because it is on the web? Obviously not. There were plenty of web mapping applications online before google maps came out.
A good interface is a good interface and a bad one is a bad one. Google happened to make a good one for the web, because google tends toward good interfaces and they make stuff for the web. microsoft did the opposite, because that's what they tend to do.
A good web app will be better than a bad desktop app, but a good desktop app should almost always be better than a good web app. There question is is there a good desktop app available to solve the problem :(
The only stand out feature in ST for me is "avoid area". When you use the selector tool you can make a square, r-click and choose avoid area. Good for when you want to avoid a busy highway or when it tries to take you too directly to your destination (e.g., going through rurual roads instead of highways)
I bet gmaps could easily do that though :)
Hmm, Google doesn't create the best GUI's, but man, that Street Trips app doesn't look like its interface has been updated since Windows 95.
If you want to know who killed the desktop application, well, I think that application killed itself.
You've got it the wrong way around: all the innovation is taking place at *Google*, who releases their software on the web.
hgs: If you ask for directions to a place, I think google maps will actually tell you whether it's on your left or right based on the directions you're given to the location.
"Web applications are evolving online at a frenetic pace, while most desktop applications are mired in circa-1999 desktop user interface conventions, plopping out yearly releases with barely noticeable new features."
1. Obviously you haven't seen Microsoft Office 2007.
2. Desktop applications could, for the most part, remain comfortably in a circa-1999 status and still remain vastly superior to most web applications.
Web apps have to change rapidly because they suck. Desktop apps don't have to change rapidly because they work just fine.
I'm going to jump out on a limb and confess that I really like Microsoft MapPoint. In fact, it's one of the first things I install after installing the OS and security software.
As others have mentioned, the fact that it's offline is critical. I use it to make maps and routes for getting around on trains and buses. There is no wifi in the middle of an abandoned military base, to put it lightly.
And when I'm online, then I just click the button to go to Live Maps and and satellite imagery and traffic info.
The UI of desktop applications have actually gotten worst, especially over the past few years. It all has to do with fancy and bloated UI.
Windows Vista is a perfect example. Unless you're using the search feature, and chances are some obscure settings still can't be reached by it, it takes a lot more clicks that its predecessor.
Same goes for the new nVidia control panel.
Personally, I think it has to do with the fact that people historically do not have a fast connection to the web, and hence aren't so patient with navigating through to maze to get to what they want, since you to factor in additional load time.
Desktop applications on the other hand never faced that dilemma.
I didn't know anyone actually used streets and tips. I un-installed it as soon as I got my laptop. I didn't know anything about it and I just assumed it was some bulky microsoft crap ware.
and now enter the world of desktop web mix via adobe air and google gears... and were ushering the new web to desktop world.
Are we talking about desktop vs web application or two competing development firms? It is not that desktop is dead, it is that google makes a really good app.
One thing is for sure, the limitations of the web have forced developers to rethink how they do their job. Maybe that is why there is innovation in web apps. The desktop paradigm has not changed in ages.
I know you are talking about the Desktop version. However, Google has created Google Maps Mobile (www.google.com/gmm) which does integrate with a GPS device. They've created several different versions for a lot of phones and pdas out there. All you need is a data plan.
Welcome to 2007! We're glad to have you here! :P
Searching for a specific string of text within all you Yahoo Mail emails vs. the same in your locally installed copy of Outlook.
Install Google desktop search and search for any given file buried deep in your OS vs. Windows Search ( or worse, ask "Clippy the paperclip to do it )
You've provided a very good example for something that "web visionaries" have been predicting for quite some time.
The idea is older, but here is one of the earliest articles that I am aware of where the author predicted, and explained in explicit detail, why web-based applications would eventually supplant desktop applications:
It makes a great deal of sense, and is largely validated by your recent experience. I have little doubt that this trend will continue.
You left out comparing the most important detail of mapping software: accuracy of directions.
While Google Maps *may* have more up to date maps, Streets and Trips is much more likely to provide accurate directions (based on my anecdotal experience of getting lost more than once when making the mistake of using Google Maps).
Could not agree more. Spent the last 4-5 years developing web applications. My latest consulting job has thrown me back into the world of windows applications. During a recent design meeting for a new form, I was horrified as to the thoughts that were being agreed on. When I presented my idea, I was met with "That would take years to implement", though with a working prototype done in about 30 minutes... my idea was finally accepted. To me it is like the application people have sealed themselves inside a small box of dropdowns, radio buttons and toolbars with nothing to guide the user but an ill-defined tab index.
your google maps screen shot shows your gmail address.
if you care, you may want to edit it out.
The emphasis has been on web apps, thus the growing divide.
I wonder if this will change when the internet is no longer free, or if you have to type in your driver's license or passport number before using it (like in Europe at internet cafes)?
Actaully advertising killed the desktop application. I have always found desktop mapping to be either outdated or expensive and it makes sense as to why. If you aren't paying more for updates the mapping company has zero incentive to update them. If you are, it gets expensive.
Online mapping on the other hand benefits from advertising and the constant need to drive users to the site. A great way to do that is to have the most updated information. Also, using a MS app for comparision is a poor choice since their competing product is now on the web in the form of Live Maps.
I'm not sure about google desktop apps though. I find their desktop search to be on the most invasive/worst UI desktop apps I've ever used. Showing the results in a browser window in a way you can't interact with them is terrible. Almost an alternative search application is better.
unfortunately, I cannot update by GPS with google map data (can I?)
so all the streets in my town are still missing....
but then again, that's really a GPS app fed by a desktop database yes?
Nothing like comparing a 5-year old desktop program with the latest version of a web app over cable/dsl. Even I, who despise Microsoft (for good reasons), find your comparison unfair. Akin to "shooting fish in a barrel".
Web-based mapping applications are good for what they provide... directions, POI's, etc... I don't use Streets and Trips, but I have used MapInfo and ESRI products for years and those products do oh so much more that Google Maps or MapQuest...
But as a consumer, having to house several terabytes of data to get satellite imagery, aerial photography, detailed streets, and business information (plus all the topographical features) is just not practical (at this point). Plus having the knowledge of the SDE or some other spatial engine for querying the data is a whole other issue...
The reminds me of the days when it was faster to load an application off of a Novell server than from the ancient 20mb hard drives (the speed difference being the FAT file system etc).
One great benefit to Google Maps - I can create my own maps and share them with anyone who has Internet access. With a desktop app, everyone I want to share with has to have the same application (and many times the same ~version~ of the desktop application).
As an example, our church supports a number of missionaries. I wanted to get a better idea of where all of those missionaries and mission organizations are located, so I plotted them on a Google map. Then I shared that map with a number of folks in my church just by sending them a link in an email. They click the link, and voila! The map appears in their browser, and we are all looking at the same information.
Now I can update the map anytime I need to, and they can all look at the updates any time they want to - no file sharing, no long set of instructions for how to load a file, etc. etc. These are benefits that would be very difficult to reproduce in a desktop-only application.
People are focusing on Google Maps and missing the point of web apps in general. I think one of the reasons that more UI innovation is happening with web apps is that web apps are where it's the easiest to innovate.
"we're guaranteed to be using the latest version with the newest features"
I think this is key, especially in terms of the user interface. Through actual people using the application in day-to-day tasks, you find those common use-cases that the interface needs to be optimized for.
The web app gives the developers a stream of feedback for what users actually do, and allows them to streamline the ui at will without downloads.
It would seem the web app has the advantage when relatively little data needs to sit on the client machine, and rapid evolution of the interface is very important. So maps, yes. Photoshop with large files, probably not.
Hmmm... I've developed a web based video editor and certain tasks like applying effects and transitions are running much faster than iMovie on the desktop. Those that aren't, like pre and post processing the video, are being handled on the server. So I'm not sure the desktop will ALWAYS be a winner for resource heavy apps...
I have to echo the befuddlement of why you were using Microsoft Streets and Trips to begin with. I alway found the alternatives out there (Delorme's chief amongst them) far far superior to MS's offering, which always seems a little bit brain-dead.
That having been said, the last time I used a desktop mapping app was in 1998 (a time in which I was still very pro-MS myself, but even I could recognize the Streets and Trips suckage). I found the free and up-to-date nature of MapQuest at that time to make more sense than buying a new version of the CDs every year (and the difference at the time in intelligence making driving routes didn't matter to me as I'm pretty capable of reading a map to make my own directions).
Today, Google Maps is far far ahead of what the old Street Atlas offered, not just in proviing directions but also in terms of making an attractive yet highly informative map. MS ST looks pretty much like I remember it being in 1998, except for the new chrome around the popup window.
IMHO, your MS bias is showing. Really. I've never heard of anyone actually using MS ST, intentionally, more than once. This is a space where they failed miserably ten years ago, and they still haven't caught up!
I forgot to include, it also encourages and almost forces context oriented UI (like all the relevant controls to a location are in the bubble for that location), because it's just as easy to put them there (in fact probably *easier*) then to stick them all up in some far away toolbar or menu. But in traditional desktop GUI toolkits, they make it really easy to add buttons to menus and toolbars, but hard to invent nice contextually relevant panes and panels.
I completely disagree with this line: "..killed Desktop Applications". The word "Application" is too generic to announce this opinion and then this article. It should remain specific to internet services only and yes, when you are getting something free, chances are that you will not complain about it.
Is anybody using some image manipulation tool on internet and then telling us it is better than desktop application i.e. photoshop?
As far as Desktop UI is concerned, users do not want it to be changed in every version of their applications. Believe me they do some serious stuff with these applications and not just email, surf, watch online movie traliers, shopping etc. From product manager's point of view, it is always a challenge to integrate new features with existing user interface of his application to make users feel better and familiar!
Internet Explorer is an application and tell me if MS changed its UI with every version? How would it feel if they add some funny UI stuff in every release?
My questions is: Is Internet an application platform or service platform? Is it okay to compare websites with desktop applications?
Last questions: Who is catching up with whom? Outlook catching GMail or GMail catching Outlook?
I would recommend comparing desktop Picasa to online Picasa. That would be a fair comparison. And maybe you'll realize that nobody killed "desktop apps". And maybe you'll realize that there is no such thing anymore as "desktop apps".
Your concluding sentence is completely insane. "It's hard not to conclude that desktop applications are dead?" Come on...considering that the browser itself is a desktop application, I think they are far from dead. Web-based office applications are still in a very primitive state, not to mention entire categories of applications for which there are no meaningful web-based alternatives...games, development tools (IDEs, compilers), advanced editors of any sort (photos, movies, audio), etc. I would argue, as much as I do find GMail useful, that even e-mail editing and management on the web is not all that hot (although I guess I would conclude it's in a tie for last with Outlook).
More to the point I think Google Maps highlights that web applications are actually alive, which is interesting. That fact that Google Maps can compete favorably with ST demonstrates that requiring a moderately rich user interaction no longer rules out the web - and in fact may be better than similar desktop applications given some of the advantages of web-based computing (notwithstanding the differences in design which are mostly a function of the product team).
First, interfaces will change ecologically just as all things do. Those with bad interfaces die out on their own. The platform is irrelevent.
Second, You're comparing apples and oranges. Currently, the engineering application I work on has to chew through gigabyte to terabyte size blocks of binary data. This is a little different from some cutesy little consumer or CRM web application and not likely to be webified until distributed computing is *much* easier to accomplish than it is now.
Third, I know we'd all like to live in a world of free wireless ubiquitous internet. In *this* world, however, I have trouble getting a cell phone call reliably more than a few miles out of town, much less free wi-fi. I *need* stand-alone applications to get work done when I'm not connected.
There's an underlying assumption that everything works the same as a video, map or CRM application. The software world is much more varied than that. There will always be a place for both type of applications, as shown by the existence of google gadgets.
If you are looking for an answer to the original question, I think the general gut-reaction answer will usually be Google anyway. Its only going to get worse for Microsoft as well.
I'm confused. Why hasn't anyone started a debate yet about whether Google Maps runs better under Windows or Linux???? Hmmmmmmmmmmm.
If you read the book Hackers Painters by Paul Graham, he makes a whole point about web applications and how they are much better from the company and user side and etc.. From the company it makes sense, by for the user its no so clear.. but I guess this might be some sort of proof.
It's almost enough to make you believe in the 37 signals mantra "constraints are good".
Oh, and the death of the desktop application was ruled a suicide.
While Google Maps *may* have more up to date maps, Streets and Trips is much more likely to provide accurate directions
I've had good and bad experiences with both. I don't think any mapping solution will provide perfect directions every time.
alway found the alternatives out there (Delorme's chief amongst them) far far superior to MS's offering
I've tried Delorme-- I even had a version bundled with that old 1998 serial port GPS that took 4 AA batteries-- but I liked ST better. I haven't looked at newer versions, but I'd assume it's mired in the same old toolbars, menus, right-click GUI paradigm, too.
in traditional desktop GUI toolkits, they make it really easy to add buttons to menus and toolbars, but hard to invent nice contextually relevant panes and panels.
The Google Gears is something that Microsoft should consider doing. It would allow you to choose a start and end, and it could grab the images before there.
"This should be an unfair comparison. Streets and Trips is free to harness the complete power of the desktop PC, whereas Google Maps is limited to web browser scripting and HTTP calls to the server"
LoL! - This is written like the combined power of googles web servers are no match for a single x86/g5 processor ;o)
XAML and .NET 3 anyone?
While not forcing developers to abandon 'menus and toolbars' paradigms, it offers at least WYSIWYG for designining of modern (web-like) interfaces.
For me, the desktop apps got a second breath.
At the risk of sounding paranoid, another difference between the two is that (if signed in, which I usually am), Google has a record of where you travel, which it can then add to its already-voluminous collection of personal information...
"Web apps have to change rapidly because they suck. Desktop apps don't have to change rapidly because they work just fine."
Please, tell us more.
Jeff's comparison of "Who Killed the Desktop App?" is flawed on one major point, he's comparing two separate products made by two separate companies. It's like comparing Firefox to Internet Explorer, sure they both do the same thing, but they are still written by two different groups. What's not to say that Google makes better applications then Microsoft? In fact, who out there uses Microsoft live (and for those of you that just said 'I do'... GIGGLE).
In todays world of programming you are confronted with IDEs that do all the coding for you, you add a control and it adds thousands of lines of code. The web is getting close to that with massive AJAX libraries. However, for those companies out there that still roll their own code, they have a chance of it being faster.
There are still pros and cons to web vs desktop. Web is definitely catching up in some aspects. And if you can write a web application that does exactly what you need it to do, then you probably have a winner due to the fact that you can update at will and have less adminstrative overhead involved. But that's typically for things that are just self-contained that don't interface with other applications, APIs, etc.
But for those applications that are just so massive, they tend to get to a point that being web-based isn't feasible and they go back to being a deskop application.
And besides, who's internet connection is 100% reliable anyway.
Most of the comments here take one side or another. To me, the web applications have their pros and cons just like desktop apps as it stands today. In the case of mapping, I haven't had a chance to use ST yet but from the author's description, I can see Google map has the upper hand for in the mapping software arena.
There are things web app couldn't do as well as their desktop counter parts (i.e. spreadsheet, other office apps, games, etc). Desktop apps are mostly feature rich. The web apps are mostly convenience in the sense that you can access it anywhere a computer with a browser and you don't need to maintain it by installing updates/upgrades.
To most people including me, being able to access anything anywhere is very important. With web app, I can do that with ease. I don't have to bring my pc with me where ever I go. I can be on vacation in South of France and still be able to do everything I can do as if I am in the office without having to bring my own pc. All I need is a computer with a browser with internet access.
This is the future and the shift is happening fast with player like Google. It’s a paradigm shift. Sun Microsystems is realizing its vision - the network is the computer.
Desktop is not dead yet but it is going that route. There are still a lot of apps that require localized computing. If unlimited bandwidth becomes a reality and everything can be run remotely and results pipe back to the user, all we need to run anything is a computer with a browser (aka dumb terminal). Desktop apps' days are numbered.
The only point I want to raise is that ST does more in the mapping space than just driving directions. Being a good MSFTie, I use maps.live.com, but would use Google before using ST for driving directions.
What you can't do with either of the online services is spatial analysis of data. When I worked at a real estate firm, we built pretty interesting reports using ST to map our sales volumes and time on market and such.
So, I think the consumer desktop mapping application is dead, and the business desktop mapping application is dying. It just isn't quite dead yet. I'm sure google or MSFT will add the ability to report on datasets pretty soon.
I don't know. I developed a web app to serve as our call tracking interface, and it works well for 5 of our customers. The moment I tried adding our full customer list the whole thing falls apart, with over a minute of load time for the dropdownlist.
I think I'll be rewriting this as a Windows app, because I don't like any of the alternatives for the web app. The best one seems to be the AjaxControlToolkit's AutoComplete control, but that doesn't limit users to valid entries and seems more error prone in general.
This is a bit like the old adage of not coming to the wrong conclusion that all frogs go deaf if you cut off all their legs because they stop jumping when you give them the jump command.
There has always been a strong push for desktop developers to *not* push the UI border, this has been a concious choice and many have been reprimanded for trying to go to outside "what users are used to". Now with web applications gaining traction, with designers that have never been constrained by silly things like convention, companies are a lot more open to new user interfaces.
Another issue is that it's harder to make a compelling UI in an desktop application. The basic desktop app is all widgets and buttons and trying to go outside that requires much more effort than it does when it comes to a webpage. Just trying to effectually embed a browser in your application comes with it's own set of lovely headaches. This is where things like XAML are going to play a huge part, now you can have the "ease" of XHTML/CSS layouts with the richness of a desktop application.
Not everything is slower than the web version. For example reading feeds in Google Reader is still painfully slow and cumbersome compared to the speed of reading feeds via FeedDemon. I can load FeedDemon and have filtered through 30 posts before Reader even gets me to my first page of feeds.
Another aspect is that users are conditioned to "put up with" the annoyances of web apps yet are very sensitive to desktop applications. I would never allow an ad in a desktop app yet I let them in my online apps, mostly because I have no choice. Also there are slow-downs and a complete lack of real "history" or customization wtih a lot of these web apps, things you'd demand in a desktop app yet we let web apps get away with all sorts of horrible user interface issues. How many web apps can you actually not use your mouse at all and go pure keyboard? Almost none.
The future isn't so black and white, though I understand you have to make such drastic statements to sex up your blog a bit. Desktop apps will never die, they'll just change. In fact "web apps" and "desktop apps" are bound to meet and mate, producing hybrid apps, such as sidebar gadgets, desktop search engines, music manages and players that play and index local media yet allow deep browsing of the web, a la Zune or iTunes.
I tested it myself, and she's right.
Finally--the words every girl longs to hear. ;)
A few comments on ST 2007--also, you can see their blog at http://streetsandtrips.spaces.live.com/:
1. The interface hasn't been updated in 5 years, pretty much. My copy of ST 2002 looks essentially the same as ST 2007. The underlying data, however, has gone through several changes.
2. ST 2007 is sold as a low-cost GPS solution; for around $100 you get a USB GPS puck and a copy of the software. As a GPS solution, off-line capabilities are essential--you cannot use Google Maps to tell you which exit to get off while driving down the highway.
3. The new functionality in ST 2007, vs. the 2002 version, all involves connections to Live Local (aka "Virtual Earth," former "Mappoint"). There's a (cryptic) button on the toolbar that opens Live Local in your browser at the same location you're viewing in ST 2007--because the Web service has satellite (and low-altitude airplane) images, while an off-line program won't. Another (also cryptic) button lets you search for companies through the Web service.
From the above I assume that the next release of ST 2007 will be based around using the Web service to map out trips, relegating the off-line application to essentially just a GPS interface. I imagine the reason we haven't seen anything like this yet is:
a. Live Local was still undergoing substantial changes over the last year, and
b. Until (unless?) UMPCs take off, I don't think a PC-based GPS solution will sell all that well.
In other words, I couldn't justify a large team to rebuild ST--so I imagine Microsoft couldn't either; however, I assume they have at least a small team working to build an off-line version of Live Local.
Got to agree with your sentiment
For me this happened in about 2001 when I started a project to do a database for a job hunter agent.
Several things became clear
The surprise was that users did not really want training, they just wanted the bookmark. This was a significant part of the costs eliminated, the sort of costing ignored by code heads..
Another surprise was the cost saving in not having to do any kind of install across the network.
The cost I kept quiet about was the extra load on the cheap ethernet networks, which have a low saturation point of below 50% capacity. You have to know a bit about networking to appreciate this point. In essence an office network running on cheap Ethernet can not carry anything like the amount of data implied by it being say a 100Mb networking.
I could list other discoveries, but the web application has been around a long while, its just now people are beginning to notice.
(Addendum, sorry--) Before someone else corrects me, let me correct myself to say that there are other new features in ST 2007 vs. 2002--but they all involve serving as a GPS navigation system. That is, ST 2007 is essentially ST 2002 + (1) links to local.live.com and (2) much better GPS-mode functionality.
For example, ST 2007 will say "turn left" when you have to turn left, exploiting Windows' text-to-speech engine.
I use local.live.com myself to plan trips (I like the shape-drawing function, although I assume Google Maps has or will soon have a similar feature), and I use ST 2007 only for its off-line GPS function.
insane idea. i would never use a web based app instead of a desktop based app in their current state.
the reasons have all been mentioned already: slow, problem with privacy, no customization possible, unreliable connection etc..
oh as for the internet connection, i do have 5 ISP's, yes five, but only one of them is fast enough (8mbps) and still slow to replace desktop apps (also, my upload speed sucks).
and, one thing might not have been mentioned: i absolutely don't want to live in a browser (either IE, or firefox or anything). yes i do close it several times everyday.
p.s.: i find googlemaps very unintuitive and frustrating to use. then, gmail is the same story. (yeah i hate all webmail.) if these are examples of a "good" web based app, what are the others like?!
If unlimited bandwidth becomes a reality and everything can be run remotely and results pipe back to the user, all we need to run anything is a computer with a browser (aka dumb terminal). Desktop apps' days are numbered.
Wow! So this guy is saying that desktop-only applications survive forever.
good post. made me realize i haven't had an instant messaging client installed since gmail+talk and meebo.com came out
Instead of literally meaning desktop applications are dead I see the point that more and more applications will now be developed as web apps instead of desktop applications.
I actually came to the same conclusion in a different situation. I have been a C++/ C# programmer for quite a long time (7 yrs) and used to wonder about the popularity of languages like Ruby, Python...surely you cannot create an installer and distribute applications written in these languages, as easily as you can do with those written in c++/c#...and that these were not for any 'serious' application development.
Then it occured to me that as more and more applications get designed as web applications, languages like python, ruby become popular as they do give quite a lot of power to the programmer when compared to the traditional languages....and these apps are run from the server where the programmer can do what he wants to.
You are onto something, Jeff.
In general, web apps and desktop apps are headed in two different directions when it comes to usability.
Web apps are headed towards universal use by the masses. Desktop apps will nichify as the expert tools of the computer literate.
The truth is that most human beings lack the capacity to operate their own PC (even a Mac) to the extent of actually having a software configuration. However, almost all people can manage to point and click their way through a web browser even after only a few minutes of first time use.
As online access becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and generations of humans are raised only having to use web browsers to get by, developers will realize that they can make a WHOLE LOT more money writing web apps for dummies than desktop apps for geeks, which in turn will bring about new generations of web apps that provide specialized functionality for the masses.
Even if someone invented an operating system with local software that was as easy to use as a web browser, most people would still only use it to launch a web browser.
Unless I need GPS input, I always choose Google Maps. Since I use various computers at work and away from work, I really find the "save to my maps" feature a big plus of Google.
Streets and Trips could be a killer desktop app, but Microsoft also has maps.live.com, which is a good parallel to maps.google.com. Maybe Microsoft has a mapping software budget and maps.live.com gets the lion's share of funding.
Microsoft's other desktop apps are certainly evolving faster than their desktop mapping solutions.
Although Google maps lacks certain advantages that a desktop app has, it makes up for it by running on a fifth generation computer (massively parallel) instead of a fourth generation computer.
Computer scientists in the early 1980's predicted the current predicament of the microelectronic: someday it would be impossible to increase cpu speed... further gains in performance could come only through massive parallelism.
The Japanese government began a 10 year program to develop a 5th generation computer. Their focus on AI and logic programming was a mistake; although it's commonly believed the project was a failure, several machines were produced, all of which used concurrency models that are widespread today. In 1997, a parallel supercomputer named Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov at chess, proving the effective of parallel search in AI.
The Google Maps server is most likely a cluster (or cluster of clusters) with about a terabyte of RAM; most likely the machines are something like 1U servers with 16G of RAM each. Most likely, a front-end server uses a hash function to direct requests for image tiles to an appropriate back-end server. Because the seek time is zero, such a system will greatly outperform a conventional disk system -- if utilization is high, cost can be much less than a conventional disk-based systems.
It's a sweet example of how a tiny slice of a 5th generation machine can greatly outperform a 4th generation machine; you could probably fit a set of image tiles on (most of) a large modern hard drive, but seek times would harm interactivity. The only practical way to deliver such an application would be pre-loaded on hard drives.
An alternative strategy is to construct a vector-based map and let it live on a combination of cache RAM and disk. The data structures to render something like that are a bit complicated. In the end, Google maps ends up feeling 'more interactive' than most desktop apps, despite the effects of network latency.
Jeff, your great article generated quite a lively discussion. It's been a pleasure to read it all.
One day down the road the desktop application may indeed be killed, but I hope it won't happen any time soon. As of today ST offers me a lot more functionality than any online map service, including Google Maps. Actually I'd go as far as saying that an on-line map service of today vs. ST is like comparing MS Paint to Photoshop (MS Paint being the free app included with Windows). But, yes, for many tasks an on-line map may be just fine.
By the way, there are several different ways to enter start destination points into ST. A quick way is to just type the address into the Route Planner. Type an address and hit Enter. Done! Type another address and hit Enter. Done! Then just press the "Get directions" button to generate a route from A to B.
Heh, heh, Dope Street. That's cool!
Newest information? FROM GOOGLE? Ya, right.
The sat. pics for my neighbourhood were updated last year from 6 year old pics to 2 year old pics. A few months back, the updated the sat pics again BACK to the 6 year old pictures.
Do I leave near any sensitive military instations? NOT IN CALGARY.
I don't trust google's maps to be more than 6 to 10 years up to date any more. IN fact, I treat it as more of a curiousity than a reference tool. I can't see, with data like that, why anyone would.
I'm surprised how many people mention that developing a DHTML application is so much faster than developing a desktop application. I've personally found the opposite to be true. I've discussed this with several colleagues and they agree. If I was in the business of shipping a software product, it'd be a desktop application simply because time is money.
You might wanna take your e-mail address out of that screen shot, wumpus