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What’s New on the Desktop

Posted @ 11:12 am by Arthur Wait | Category: Technology | 0 Comments

SolutionSet’s core business is building websites. We are, after all, in the era of the web. With the proliferation of sophisticated platforms and tools for creating powerful online applications (think Google Docs or SalesForce.com), more and more businesses are asking us about bringing their core business processes online. Web-based applications enable employees to manage information from anywhere there’s an Internet connection, regardless of what computer they’re on. And for burdened IT departments, web applications are easy to deploy: just point users to a URL-no software to install or upgrade.

There’s one company, however, that has mixed feelings about this bright new world: Microsoft. The world’s leading purveyor of desktop operating systems is more than a little concerned that as businesses move their operations onto the web, there will be a declining need for Windows. After all, if everything is on the web, why pay for the Windows OS when a Mac or even a Linux machine can display web pages just as easily?

Enter WPF

So in an effort to keep up with the web, Microsoft has spent the last few years building their next-generation platform for desktop business applications. Called “Windows Presentation Foundation” (WPF) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Presentation_Foundation), this new set of tools and technologies allow software developers to create rich, powerful custom software applications that can, in some cases, provide significant advantages over their web-based brethren.

Unlike a website, WPF apps can take full advantage of user’s computer, doing things that most web applications cannot, such as:

But WPF apps can also take full advantage of the Internet, doing virtually everything a web-based application does, such as:

That last point is particularly important: Microsoft recognizes that one of the advantages websites have over most desktop software is that users don’t need to download and install anything. So Microsoft has created an intelligent deployment system for this new breed of desktop applications, called “Click Once.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClickOnce) Users can point their browser to a specific URL and the application will be downloaded and installed for them. Better yet, upgrades to subsequent releases are downloaded and installed automatically in the background.

At left is a screen capture of a sample application which allows users to track family trees. The interface is fluid and dynamic. Users can create their own family trees and save the files to disk.

Windows Only?

The one significant drawback to WPF applications is that they are, indeed, Windows-only. No Linux, no Mac. But Microsoft is taking some strides towards supporting competitive platforms, particularly with a recent technology called “Silverlight” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverlight). Silverlight takes many (not all) of the advantages of WPF and puts them onto the Web. So Mac users can enjoy some of the high-end visual capabilities built into WPF. Silverlight is still relatively new and Microsoft needs to polish the technology before it will be truly useful for running custom business applications.

SolutionSet’s Offerings

SolutionSet’s .Net team is capable of building your custom business application either for the web or for the desktop. If you have an upcoming software project that might benefit from some of the desktop features discussed above, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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