Gordon and I have written fewer blog posts in the past six weeks than usual. We’ve been testing and tuning Infovark for our version 1.0 release.
We’ve spent most of that time working with our installer. We want Infovark to work smoothly on Windows XP, Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7. We want Infovark to be compatible with recent versions of the Microsoft office suite. We also want to follow the Microsoft’s User Access Control (UAC) guidelines and other best practices.
Creating an installation package that meets these requirements will easily take 1/6 of our total development time for Infovark.
Sadly, almost none of this work will matter to our customers. After all, who cares what the installation package does, as long as it does the job? From a customer perspective, any time we spend on installation issues is a waste. It doesn’t improve the product itself.
That, in a nutshell, explains why virtually every software program that can be delivered as a web application will be.
Most users love web applications because they can begin using the product right away. They don’t have to worry about system requirements. There’s nothing to install and usually very little to configure. The product is always up to date.
IT professionals love web applications because they run within a web browser’s “sandbox” environment. Since there’s nothing to install, and the interactions with the rest of the user’s computer are strictly limited, there’s little chance that a web application will cause support problems.
Programmers love web applications, too. As soon as they implement a new feature, they can give it to customers and start getting feedback. They can deploy bug fixes immediately. Their applications will run on virtually every platform with only minor tweaks.
Software companies love web applications because they save time and money. The faster they get their products into customer hands, the faster they can recoup their investment. Applications developed for the web have a broader reach, so they have more potential customers.
Taken together, web applications and Web 2.0 has compelling advantages over software built and delivered the traditional way. Read why I’m done making desktop applications to hear what an independent software vendor (ISV) has to say about the subject.
Knowing all of this has made our work on the Infovark installer even more painful. We’re putting a lot of effort into troubleshooting our install routine that we’d really rather spend on Infovark itself.
There’s only one thing that justifies this extra work and extra care: It’s the only way to solve the problem.
Our goal is to liberate the desktop. Infovark allows people to share valuable information that they’ve created with their other tools. To do this seamlessly and transparently, with as little manual effort as possible, we have to integrate with those business applications. We have to go where the information lives.
That doesn’t stop us from wishing we were building a web app, though.