Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Gmail re-opens debate on Thin vs Rich clients

Gmail, most talked-about free Email service from Google, blazingly fast service proves that Web-based applications can be just as good as ones running on your desktop computer. Is it better for applications to run on my computer or on a remote server? Read on comments from Simson Garfinkel's article, "Google conquers Email" at MIT Technology Review (subscription required).

Gmail validates a claim that Sun has been making for nearly a decade—that it’s possible to replace a network of PCs running Windows with world-class computers offering computing services to low-cost and easily-managed desktop machines—perhaps machines so inexpensive that they don’t even have a hard disk. Sun called such computers “thin clients.”

But Gmail does work just as well as a copy of Outlook Express running on the desktop. In some way, in fact, it works better....

Until Gmail, practically every Web-based application was a pale imitation of that same application running on a PC. Web-based applications had the advantage that they were accessible from any computer on the Internet on professionally managed servers, that the data was backed up, and that the applications themselves were constantly updated. But compared to applications running on your local machine the web versions had fewer features and performed more slowly.

Gmail is different. For starters, it’s blindingly fast—so fast that it feels like it is running on your local computer and not in some data center....

Gmail shows that Web applications with thin clients can have advantages over software running on your desktop. The most obvious is reliability: Gmail runs on Google’s servers, not your hard drive, and Google almost certainly does a better job than you do with routine maintenance, backups, and the like.


Now, what happens if I'm not connected to the Internet? I'd never be able to read my Email unless I've had previously downloaded it...Uhmm, not very handy indeed.

[link]

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