You can never be too rich or too thin

Summary:In order to sell Longhorn when it launches, Microsoft has been trying to convince everyone of the importance of rich clients. Microsoft will lose its lock on the operating system if the only thing that people run on them are browsers.

In order to sell Longhorn when it launches, Microsoft has been trying to convince everyone of the importance of rich clients. Microsoft will lose its lock on the operating system if the only thing that people run on them are browsers. Meanwhile, CIOs love thin-client applications because of the additional overhead that rich clients bring to desktop management. Sure, desktop management tools like LANDesk and Altiris reduce the burden, but it never goes to zero.

Microsoft wants CIOs to believe that the choice between rich clients and thin clients is mutually exclusive. You can be rich or you can be thin, but you can't be both. Interestingly, Google and others are demonstrating that thin clients can be rich as well.

If you've used Google's GMail, you're probably aware that its interface is more natural than most Web applications. Still, it's obviously a Web application. For a better idea of what's possible, take a look at Google Suggest. This version of Google offers suggestions as you type. It's kind of fun to put in a few letters and see what suggestions come up. >

How does this work? The quick answer is Javascript. Javascript's name and usage has given people the impression that it's a second-class programming language, not really up to snuff for serious programming. In fact, Javascript is quite capable and offers features that other programming languages do not. Most importantly, it's the language of choice for programming browsers.

Chris Justus has a detailed look at how Google Suggest works. Take a look if you're interested, but the summary is that it uses Javascript's XMLHttpRequest to communicate with the server without reloading the page. Since Javascript can manipulate the page inside the browser without rerendering it, you get a rich client feel inside a thin client browser.

One company that's elevated this to an art form is CanyonBridge Technologies. I wrote about them on my blog last year and demos I've seen since have

Topics: Google, Browser, Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.