Guest contributor, Paul Herzlich, Principal Analyst, Creative Intellect Consulting

Read part 1 here Read part 2 here

What’s up, App?

Mobile devices are very App-centric. You’d almost think they contained no data. I think this is the legacy of embedded devices being largely single-purpose sensing devices – telemetry, imagery, etc. But our current mobile devices are truly small all-purpose computers. The irony for me in Apple’s spearheading Apps is that my first experience of clicking on a document to open a program was on my very first 128KB Macintosh in 1984. Now for Apple – and the rest of the industry – we’re definitely back to the App. The program remains supreme and the App is crown prince. And data is almost invisible. Are Apps a good thing? My view is that there is as much drag from Apps as tailwind. Innovation and anything that fosters it is a great thing. However, we still need to remember what has and hasn’t worked in the past. And we need to be discriminating about what’s appropriate. Just because an App is possible doesn’t mean it’s right. Alongside Apps, I have to ask what will happen to the browser-based application model? I don’t know. I’m an analyst and so my crystal ball should tell me, but it is more like a snowy winter scene in there when I ask that question. There are times I really want a desktop version of a mobile App and it doesn’t exist. I’d be glad to have it in either thick-client or browser form. When you look at them, Apps are not really thin clients. Nor are they exactly thick clients. What the world is moving to is maybe a crossbreed ‘thinck’ client. (And I want credit if ‘thinck’ or ‘think’ takes hold.) Whether we are talking thin- thick- or thinck-,  we need to be careful with the latest technologies. It is not the architectures that are a problem, but their expressions in development technologies. HTML with CSS with XML with Javascript with Jquery and JSON – making clients and RESTful services, and, and, and – it is a dangerous cocktail. I challenge you to get one of your 2-year programmers to decipher the work of a colleague. My view is that you’ll find the only way to manage the incredible inscrutability and complexity is through automation that gives you clarity on the diverse components of a single program, let alone whole systems, and helps you manage the software delivery processes. In an industry where the cobbler’s children rarely have decent shoes, will you believe me that you must use the best development and ALM tools available? We can’t afford undisciplined or individual artisan programmers. Because if you thought you had mounted up technical debt in legacy systems, I assure you that it’s just taken on global debt-crisis proportions.

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