Volkswagens and Porsches

Ray Ozzie has done an interview with the always excellent Knowledge@Wharton folks, and its a great read. Its nice that Ozzie is coming out of hiding a bit. In the article, he talks quite a bit about Adobe. Not surprisingly, Dan Farber and Ryan Stewart are talking about it.

I think Dan pullled the most interesting quote out of the article, though he didn’t include the whole thing. Here it is:

Well let me just start by saying that, in my view, we only have one shared future as a software industry. And that is centrally deployed code that has a different lifetime associated with it on the device it’s deployed to.

So, what is HTML or DHTML? Most web pages have JavaScript in them. That’s code that is delivered to the client and it has the lifetime of the browser instance you’re using. Flash — what is that? Well, it involves enhancing the browser runtime by downloading code. But it tethers those enhancements to the service and the lifetime of those things is still within the browser. With Apollo, maybe you can make the lifetime that of the user on that device. They have increased the lifetime from the browser instance to the PC.

All apps — whether Win32 code, Flash code, managed WPF [Windows Presentation Foundation] code — are going to have those lifetime choices and will all be centrally deployed, whether that central deployment is from an enterprise or from a service provider on the web. The concept of CD-based installs, floppy-based installs or USB stick installs are artifacts of a time when we were not fully connected.

I don’t see radical differences in the approaches that Adobe might be taking, that we’re taking, or that the web industry in general is taking. The languages and run-times may be different. And we come at it from a history of the desktop coming up to the web. They are coming from a history of being on the web and going down to the desktop, but the endpoint is the same.

Cool. Ray Ozzie gets the key benefit of Apollo – bringing the web down to the desktop. His key message here is that bits is bits, and that it doesn’t really matter whether its .NET code or Flash or HTML/Javascript that gets deployed on the web – they all end up just being code that runs on the local machine. There is truth to that, but I think he is either being a bit disingenuous or missing the larger point – it isn’t just about the bits, its also about the APIs and tools used to create those bits. Does Ozzie really believe these things are irrelevant? I doubt it.

I’ve written about how I see our vision differing from Microsoft’s in this key area previously, but instead of repeating myself, I’ll instead point to the work of Peter Fisk. He is working on an amazing project to create a complete Smalltalk environment from the ground up, built on a lisp base. Now this is a pretty ambitious project, you have to admit. He started off using .NET and WPF, back in July 2006. After making steady progress for six months, he heard about Flex 2.0 at the end of January 2007. Two days later he had posted his first proof-of-concept tests of lisp implemented in Flex. Within a month, he had significant functionality in place. A month later, he had animation working in Smalltalk. He’s made incredible progress in the last two months, way more than he did in six months with WPF, and I’ve had a blast watching his progress. Now he has had a chance to reflect on the two worlds, and I love what he has to say. Here it is in its entirety:

I have been coding almost exclusively in ActionScript for the past two months, and I am beginning to like it.

The entire Adobe way of doing things is a lot simpler than Microsoft and it seems to produce results that are just as good. So far, I haven’t found anything that I could do in C#/.Net that I can’t do in ActionScript/Flash – in fact, I am finding some capabilities in Flash that aren’t available in .Net.

Here is a car analogy:

Microsoft has built a sports car and Adobe has built a Volkswagen (a real Volkswagen, not the new imitation ones).

So while Microsoft is preparing their latest rocket-powered turbocharger which will be available “real soon now”, you can actually build and deploy stuff in Flash.

A Volkswagen on the road goes a lot faster than a sports car in the repair shop.

Now, a lesser man could take that analogy and run it into a telephone pole, but I won’t go there. 🙂

~ by Andrew Shebanow on 04Apr07.

One Response to “Volkswagens and Porsches”

  1. I disagree, VW’s these days can bloody hoot.

    You had me up until the pole comment for this post. I thought.. this is actually a good read..oh..there it is, the MS thing..har har….


    Scott Barnes
    Troll Evangelist

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