I have recently started using the Developer Preview of Apple OS X 10.7 (Lion) and have been surprised by the huge advances in the operating system and in particular with Apple’s own web browser – Safari. In many respects it has become an internet client more than an internet browser. With the advent of HTML5 and Apple’s well-known adversity towards Adobe Flash it seems that web browsers (including Firefox and Chrome) are now basically the place where a full day’s work can be done.
The impact of this never ending rush towards cloud computing and HTML in particular is both a good and bad thing.
For us as users it means that we can more or less turn up to any computer in the world and get access to the things we use on our laptops, tablet or home computers. No longer are we chained to using a bespoke or proprietary client application to access some specific business application.
For IT departments in organisations they no longer have to maintain complicated pre-built images for desktop computers and rolling out updates to client applications is no longer a six-month project and a major undertaking.
The downside to this innovation is of course the dependency on network. If you’re not connected you’re not working. OK, getting connected is easier than ever but for those of us who grew up marvelling at the ability of a computer to talk down a telephone line to another computer at apparently dazzling speeds, the concept of always requiring a network connection to do anything seems downright wasteful. And that’s not to consider the fact that processor speeds are always going up, RAM on board is always greater yet the one thing that seems to throttle our experience is beyond most of our control – the speed of our internet connection. It’s like having a Bugatti Veyron and driving it around school zones – sure it’s nice to sit in, but a bit of a waste when you can only do 20 mph.
Coming back to the Mac for a moment, but it is true of Linux and Windows, the new operating system from Apple is documented as not including a java virtual machine (or a flash plugin). Both of these can be downloaded but clearly Mr Jobs has decided to follow suit with the others (who never included it anyway) that code like Java is outmoded for desktop computers and is something which is consigned to developers who will run it as part of an application on a server.
This brings into sharp focus, therefore, IBM’s decision to use the Eclipse framework for the Notes client. Underneath all of the IBMness is a java virtual machine (or several if you’re running Sametime Connect and Symphony too). On the Mac this is well know to be slow and very un-Mac-like. Lotus Notes on the Mac sticks out like a sore thumb from any other application on the platform. Although IBM have gone to enormous lengths to make it look like other Notes clients out there it is still very slow, prone to crash and consumes enormous amounts of RAM.
So with all these innovations in browsers (including full screen mode for Safari – hooray), the disappearance or non-existence in the base operating systems of Java and the poor user experience performance-wise of the Notes client, is it time to abandon our native client and move to a browser solution?
GBS have recently announced their latest iteration of their Transformer application which converts Notes databases into XPages applications and therefore browser-based solutions. IBM’s own efforts are clearly heading towards a browser world with the latest release of Sametime 8.5.2 providing client-less presence awareness and meetings. Indeed the whole Project Vulcan offering from IBM uses HTML not a Notes client.
If there is anyone out there who has not experienced iNotes 8.5.2 as a possible contender to their Notes client experience then I strongly urge them to consider it. You will find it responsive, complete and a joy to use. When you ask your admin to implement Transformer to convert those long-loved Notes apps to a browser and implement Single Sign On across your server estate you will wonder why you ever bothered installing software on your computer.
The only question remaining for you will be what you will do with your Bugatti Veyron of a computer on a ropey 3G internet connection at that airport!