Desktop applications of tomorrow (I)

This is the first of three posts where I am going to share my vision for the desktop apps of the short-term future.

When I am using my workstation or laptop I find myself spending most of my time in the browser, with it I do a lot of different tasks I used to be doing with many different native applications for example: listening to music, watching videos, chatting with friends, sending pictures…

When I am using my tablet or phone though the situation changes. I find myself rarely using the browser, in fact I only use it to visit some site I saw on another app like Twitter or Facebook.
At the beginning (HTC Magic, my first Android phone) I thought this was because the browser was so unbearable that they had to come out with an alternative to the web, so they came out with “specific apps”, that is one app per each internet service or purpose.

But things have evolved since, and now my Nexus5 and 7 can render websites some times even better and faster than my laptop, but anyway I still prefer to use Android apps. Why?


Both web and android apps are way better at managing content than we are.

They always have something to show to you: perhaps something new that might interest you? perhaps a bold guess based on you previous search? or perhaps just what is “hot” nearby? Two of the best example are Youtube and Spotify.

Your content is available everywhere, and I am not talking only about putting stuff into the “cloud” but I am talking about your online profile. Continuing with the example of Youtube and Spotify on both apps you will have your: playlist, subscriptions, radios, friend list on any device either via the app or the web.

Sharing content is damn easy on both either by copying the url on the Web or by clicking the omnipresent share button in Android. As a matter of fact I don’t remember the last time I shared a picture or an article using a desktop app… Probably it was really long ago.

They know what content you like… They know your habits… They know everything and they use it to provide the most convenient content at all time. Oh look! It is Monday, perhaps you want to watch the new video uploaded in this Youtube channel as you do every week?

Finally, both web and Android apps try to avoid making the user think too much which I find it to be a relief when I am using them. Again they do this by knowing what content you are interested on and by providing it to you in the best possible way.

That is it for now, In part II I will explain the current situation of the desktop apps and in part III I will show a mockup of a video app I hope to work on someday. In the meanwhile what do you think? Is the same thing I describe in this article happening to you?

  • sinma

    Youtube is shitty at guessing what I want to watch, recommending me for months videos I don’t like or don’t like much because I watched one in life. I prefer much simpler recommendation system (recommending videos related to the one I watch) and otherwise showing me the channels I have subscribed.

    I don’t use often the share button in Android because it’s often shitty. If I write an SMS and then I want to include the link in it, I can’t use share; if I want to answer an e-mail, I need to copy the link and then tap answer in the e-mail client; etc. But it can be very useful for all the things that arn’t messaging.

    > As a matter of fact I don’t remember the last time I shared a picture or an article using a desktop app… Probably it was really long ago.

    I share articles and pictures with both, mostly by SMS e-mail and jabber. I tend to avoid SMS and (buggy) MMS because it’s a pain in the ass to cannot access my messages with my computer.

    Finally, I think Android is not doing anything better than KDE, except maybe appearance and being a bit simpler on some use cases.

  • guest

    my 2 cents:
    It’s a “point-of-view” and “usecase” question.
    I’m using KDE on a business desktop with $home on an NFS share.
    1) Using the browser rarely. Mostly to check other companies websites or to download pdf manuals or technical documentation.
    2) Using the filemanager: A LOT, search files, attach to emails
    3) searching for content inside files: desperately needed…
    4) managing thousands (150.000+) images: A LOT, again filemanager or digikam
    5) Using OpenOffice and also KWord as it’s really fine and useable nowadays: A LOT
    6) Using GIMP: 5-10 times a day
    7) using 3D CAD: 5-10 times a day

    Web-Based applications? none
    sharing content on social networks? forget it…
    sharing content by email / dropbox / http://ftp... yes.
    Do I even want my content to be available everywhere? no

    What’s important for me: responsiveness of the desktop, to be able to work fast

  • Arne Babenhauserheide

    I experience that with E-Mail: Compared to F*book and twitter, E-Mail clients provide a horrible user experience. It’s as if they shove the office-workflow of managing a huge amount of emails down the throat of people who actually only want to communicate with their friends – and at the same time the programs are too slow to deal efficiently with huge numbers of emails.

    At the same time E-Mail is considerably more powerful than any of the web-based things – or would be more powerful if we could actually trust the emails we get. If for example every user signed the emails automatically with GnuPG, we could implement workflows where a user can register to our status updates by sending us an email – and our email program would take care of getting our email to all the interested people when we click “share”.

    Even worse, we have that non-encryptable subject line which people have to think of before they can send an email. Something like “hey, are you free at 17:00” needs about 2 times as long in email as in anything else.

    And the workflow is not per friend (ah, X wrote again!) but rather it is a big list of messages. A database dump, where we could instead have a list of new messages which looks like the comments on your blog.

    Also when starting a new email we do not see a list of the most likely recipients (our friends with images!) which we can simply click but instead have to start typing in a name and hope for auto-completion.

  • Marc Collin

    if you check mobile apps, too many do the same thing then a web page… a couple of textbox, listbox…

    it’s just developper have not learning html5