Egg says rich clients are the future online

Browser-based banking could soon be old school at Egg, which believes that smart clients are the future - and that means Microsoft operating systems

Online bank Egg is considering a move away from pure Web interfaces for its customers, according to chief information officer Tom Llube, in a shift that will have implications for developers as well as customers.

If Egg, which made its name as a pure online bank with no physical branches, takes this route it would mean that those among its three million customers who wanted to make the most of the bank's features would have to run the Windows operating system.

"Today Egg is primarily Web-based," said Llube, addressing the Developing Software for the Future Microsoft Platform conference at London's QEII Conference Centre this week. "But going forward we will have to move it to smart-client-based solution."

This smart-client-based solution is likely to involve Longhorn, Microsoft's next operating system, said Llube, who provided a demonstration for the audience at the conference.

The move from the browser-based model to a smart-client model will be an important shift for Egg, said Llube. "Longhorn is a key bit of the jigsaw that enables me to take that step. Our view is that any company serious about this type of thing needs to look at smart-client, customer-side computing."

Later, in a Q&A session with journalists, Llube denied that the move would force all customers to move to Longhorn. Those using other operating systems such as Linux or Apple Mac OS would still be able to use the services through a Web client as all Egg customers currently do, said Llube, but those who wanted to videoconference live with the bank's support desk, for instance, would need to run Microsoft's upcoming operating system.

But, he said, the bank will move away from the current "one size fits all" model to having a range of services suited to different types of users. "So if I have a critical mass of users on Longhorn who expect a different class of experience we will cater for them, but we would support the others."

Llube also said the changing philosophy will affect the way developers will have to think. "My developers are going to have think much more about what it means to a customer, how it looks to them, than they do at the moment," he said. "I am becoming more discriminating about the type of developer I think I need if I'm to develop these types of application. It is because technology is so fundamental to us. It runs through everything we do."