Back in the earliest of times (at least for me), there were the Unix terminals in college.
They had pine for mail, joe for text editing, of course ed, sed, vi and emacs (oh, the unforgettable time I spent trying to exit vi when it was the default text editor for pine but I didn't know about it... of course back then I was studying architecture.) Anyway, besides those, there was lynx, the web browser, and there was www, wais, gopher, and ftp. The world was simple, no graphics, multimedia, many windows...
Then came color screens, Suns and X-Windows. Running Netscape Navigator! The internet had pictures on it, far fewer cat pictures were online back then, but it was fascinating nevertheless. Also, there was the clock on every desktop, a text editor, and a calculator and those googly eyes called xeyes (http://www.xfree86.org/4.4.0/xeyes.1.html) that followed your cursor everywhere. (By the way, you can check out the latest iteration, that follows the actual user here: http://uri.cat/software/LookAtMe/.)
Then came Windows, and the calculator and the clock and the text editor, the latest and the greatest! Color screens and windows! - and of course later: WinXeyes (http://www.steelblue.com/WinEyes/.)
More iterations followed: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 7 and other OS-es: Mac OS 7-8-9, then X, BeOS, Linux (the other OS-es didn't necessarily follow, but they had the calculator, the text editor, the clock, etc.)
Microsoft followed, not too fast, with Silverlight, solving a problem that was solved many times before, in fact it wasn't even a problem.
Today, we're witnessing the blossoming of the mobile web. In fact it's out-blossomed its capabilities for the time being (otherwise it would be an enjoyable experience to read the news online using phone while riding the bus in San Francisco - supposedly the tech stronghold and bastion of innovation), and we are looking at even more platforms for our old friends, the clock, the text editor, and the calculator, not to mention Xeyes.
It all started with Java ME on Nokia Phones, but that wasn't good enough, so now we have iPhone Apps (remember when the iPhone was only supposed to support web browser based applications?) and Android apps (more Java, anyone?).
In all fairness, it's not only the clock, the text editor, and the calculator that has been ported to every platform imaginable. We have Office and Office clones for Windows (duh) and the Mac, Linux, and the phones. Especially lately, the Mac platform is making a comeback, even AutoCAD came out among other multi platform Autodesk products: http://usa.autodesk.com/products/mac-compatible-products.
However, it would be nice if we didn't have to redo everything every time someone creates a new platform, wouldn't it? With the network speeds today, application and desktop remoting is making a transition -- from the intranet to the internet. And Autodesk Labs is in the middle of it all: We have application trials deployed using 3D streaming: http://labs.autodesk.com/technologies/trials/where currently you can try AutoCAD 2010, Autodesk Inventor 2011, Autodesk Revit Architecture 2010, and Maya 2010.
Of course, there is not always 5Mbit/s connections available, so desktop apps will not just go the way of the VCR, but remoting combined with the up and coming virtualization technologies like VMWare, Parallels, Spoon, ThinApp, and various emulators give us hope that the crazed frenzy of rewriting everything might slow down.
Maybe the next big thing will be virtualization for the phone. Maybe we already have what it takes, having seen Windows desktops on the iPad (using Citrix) and Mac desktops on the iPad and iPhone (using Parallels). However, we have to realize that not everyone is always connected, maybe the best option is running the application locally, in a virtualization layer that could be platform independent. Labs is showcasing a solution for that as well: the Inventor Fusion trial (http://labs.autodesk.com/technologies/fusion/getting_started/) using Windows. If you get the "Try Now" button after filling out the form, you'll know that you're on the bleeding edge: not only you will try a new approach on how to use Inventor, but you will have streamed an application to your computer - the only thing to install will be a small plugin, then off you go, right from the browser. Using this solution, you will have the full offline experience after the initial streaming is completed.
And there is more to come, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, it would be nice to know what you think about remoting and streaming, so if you have a strong opinion one way or another, don't hesitate to write us at [email protected].
ps: To sum it up:
- Application remoting (AutoCAD 2010, Autodesk Inventor 2011, Autodesk Revit Architecture 2010, Maya 2010): http://labs.autodesk.com/technologies/trials/
- Application streaming: (Inventor Fusion): http://labs.autodesk.com/technologies/fusion/getting_started/
Don't forget to check the system requirements though...
Reminiscing is alive in the lab.