Saturday, November 08, 2008

The future is smart clients

Technologies come and go. Some become part of our lives. Some don’t. Some are just fillers. Some are ahead of their times. While others, serve as a base for new ones.

Software developers have used and programmed many. Architectures have selected the best that suits the purpose. But everyone knows we are still working on and looking for new ones. As we get one working, our expectations increases and we want to build more advanced and suitable technologies. Frameworks gets deviced once we have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve, how we want others to use it, and how will it impact future developments.

With Internet, the world became a village. Today, with the coming of mobile and embedded devices the applications are on move. We want information not just on our desks, but anywhere and wherever we are. And it’s not just about being connected, we want our data even in offline or disconnected mode.

We mastered the ins and outs of stand-alone applications, spent a lot on the client-server environments, moved to web pages and web applications and then entered the world of services. All these technologies are now playing a very important role in what’s called as 'smart clients'. These are applications which run on multiple platforms, customized by role, both in online and offline modes, with capabilities to synchronize data with multiple devices.

Multiple platforms: Smart applications will work on our desktops, mobile phones, PDAs, Mobile Internet Devices (MID), web applications, widgets, and any embedded device that user has access to. All have different presentation modes, and functionality depends of device specifications. Some will just be read-only, while others provide full experience.

Customized by role: In the world of applications-on-move, not all devices have the capability or complexity to handle everything. More importantly not everyone requires ever feature of the application. Smart-clients will enable application customization so that only relevant portions/features are available. This not only makes the application less bulky on resource constrained devices, but also serves the security and resource control requirements.

Online/Offline modes: These intelligent applications can detect networks and switch modes accordingly. In online mode application is fully functional. Data caching enables offline mode. While in offline mode, the application simulates an online behavior. Some functionality is disabled to protect data ACIDity and protect the user against the usage of stale data for decision making. But the overall experience is same as online mode. Any data that is to be sent to the server is queued until connection is found, and the lowest cost connection is used for communication.

Synchronization: We now live in a world of one-person-multiple-devices. Smart clients are responsible for not just synchronizing data between the client and the server, but also within all the devices a person use. This enable data availability at all times.

One excellent source of information on smart clients is Microsoft's Smart-client architecture

More coming in with details on each of the features of smart-applications… keep watching…

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