Is IM the “Last Desktop App Standing”?

Om Malik and others have reported on Jive CEO David Hersh’s speech at Etel, where he claimed that IM applications will never migrate off the desktop.

I’m a little mystified by the argument, at least as presented by Om (I haven’t seen an actual transcript or slides for the actual talk):

  1. Real Time with IM:
    Real time communication and collaboration are great, no doubt about it. But who says you need to be in a desktop application to achieve those things? Is there some special magic in XMPP, SIP, and Jabber protocols that makes them unimplementable in a VM environment? Of course not, and here is the proof: Adobe Acrobat Connect lets you chat, do VOIP, and more all within a web browser, using Flash. Jive’s own products implement these protocols in Java, which was also a VM environment last time I checked.
  2. And then there is the familiar user interface!:
    Again, Flash-based user interfaces are incredibly rich. AJAX-based experiences have come a long way as well. What exactly is the special sauce in desktop IM programs that makes their UI unamenable to the RIA experience? As Om himself points out earlier in his article, if you can do Buzzword or Adobe Remix that way, surely the IM experience can be handled in the same manner…
  3. Future full of features:
    Again, what is it about IM as a desktop application that makes it more amenable to new features than an RIA implementation or an AJAX one? Many people think that RIA environments are more productive places to program than the old Win32/Apple worlds. They certainly aren’t less productive.
  4. Mobile goes the IM:a
    This is a non-sequitir. How mobile IM clients are written will have little or no effect on whether desktop IM applications survive. Besides, mobile platforms could offer IM services based on Flash Lite or J2ME.

I suspect that David Hersh’s argument may actually be a lot simpler than presented by Om. He may just be saying that IM applications won’t ever be predominantly browser-based. But if that is what he’s saying, then my answer is: so what? If the future of IM is as an Apollo app, a Widget/Gadget, or some other such technology, why does it matter how those applications get onto the desktop? They are still going to be built on Web technologies, not on traditional “desktop” APIs.

~ by Andrew Shebanow on 02Mar07.

2 Responses to “Is IM the “Last Desktop App Standing”?”

  1. You are right, it does not matter “how those applications get onto the desktop”. It does not matter either if they are “built on Web technologies” or “on traditional “desktop” APIs”.

    These are all valid alternatives as long as they serve their legitimate purpose: provide a solution to an end-user pain points. Technology is a tool not an end 😉

    [Andrew says:] I agree completely. I’m not against the idea of using native APIs for such applications and should have made that clear in what I wrote. I was just disputing the idea that somehow IM apps were somehow immune from the trend toward RIAs and web-based applications.

  2. Mobile IM is already wide-spread, so it seems David Hersh has slept under a rock for a couple of years.

    Right now IM clients are developed in Java ME, but they could move to also Flash Lite, AJAX etc once enough phones have them and they provide enough functionality.

    Most IM is just text, even on a PC, so David’s arguments are weak.

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