Does the iPhone count as a "desktop"?

Does the iPhone count as a "desktop"?

Summary: This week I wrote a letter to the desktop welcoming it back. Then I got an email from one of my long time commentors asking if the iPhone counted as a "desktop".


This week I wrote a letter to the desktop welcoming it back. Then I got an email from one of my long time commentors asking if the iPhone counted as a "desktop". Sure it's not a desktop in the traditional sense, but in the application sense, it might be. This article about Microsoft looking at ways to create iPhone applications seems to help support that thought.

The iPhone is unlike any other mobile device partly because the general experience, both user and developer, is so similar to a desktop. We've already seen a lot of Ajax-RIAs created specifically for the iPhone. It has rich media capabilities, and while I haven't spent much time with the SDK, I assume application developers can take advantage of some of those.

So the iPhone has some native, desktop-like traits. Should it be included in the desktop conversation? What do you think? Are iPhone applications going to be counted as RIAs?

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility

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  • I'm not too sure about that...

    It's obviously not a "desktop" in the physical sense of a form factor of computer.

    Additionally, with the emphasis on mobile connectivity and web applications, I'm not sure it's really a "desktop" in the virtual workspace sense either. Even with the SDK available, I'm not convinced that at any time in the future most of the computing iPhone users' tasks require will actually be done on the iPhone.

    Sure, iPhone is a full-featured ultra-portable client computer, but not necessarily a "desktop" in the sense of "machine with the processor that is doing most of the work".
  • RE: Does the iPhone count as a

    Where did the term "desktop" come from? It was inspired by the comparison to a real-world desktop where you have multiple tools and documents at your disposal on a workspace surface. In that sense, I suppose, the iPhone qualifies because you have a wide spectrum of applications at your disposal, whereas a computing appliance or a web application usually provides a single service or a set of related services.

    On the other hand: would you call the Palm OS a "desktop" system?

    As for the question "is it an RIA?": does the "Internet" in RIA mean that the application itself is accessed via the Internet, or does it just mean that the application uses the Internet (that most of its value comes from its use of the Internet)? I think it's more the former than the latter.
  • It isn't "desktop" vs. "RIA", but rather "thick vs. rich thin vs. thin"

    There are some apps on the iPhone that are true thick apps, like Notes, Calendar, Camera/Photos, etc. And I'm sure there will be other pure thick apps.

    what are they? Apps that don't require any data from the network at all (at least not yet in the case of Calendar). Then there are apps like Stocks & Weather and Mail that are rich network data apps. In the case of Mail you can do a heck of a lot w/o ever being connected (writing and addressing mainly), but the other apps require the network connection to provide value b/c the network data is all that matters.

    But even then, i wouldn't call these RIAs. Why? b/c of the way they are built. They are traditional executables where the GUI is firmly resident on the hardware and the only update mechanism is an update through downloading in total.

    Now, this gets tricky. Is AIR an RIA? it is similar in that it is installed locally like weather on the iPhone, but its ability to be updated through the network as opposed to through download first to a PC and then to the app is a key differentiator, but not by much IMHO. The other differentiator then is the development environment. is it open? Arguably Flash/Flex is an open environment compared to Apple's SDK for installable applications.

    of course these issues are getting blurrier all the time.

    Just for clarification a true thin app runs in the browser, or a browser like container where the application is never installed on disk. These in my mind are the truest RIAs and everything else is a blur towards a thick client.

    -- dave