Friday, August 17, 2007

The One Interface to Bind Them All

The Browser. Thats the one interface that people think would bind them all - all the multiple data sources. Whether the information comes from the ever expanding web, or from deep within the enterprise data ravines, or from Excel files, or from E-mail stores. If you want to reach it to more people, just put a browser on the face of the data store, and you are on! Bingo!

A large part of that is true. The browser indeed has changed the boundaries of the information repositories forever. The browser has enabled information to be served to people in self-serve modes and has created the internet revolution.

But lets not get carried away. Browsers are great for many applications, and are woefully inadequate for some. Firstly, browsers have to be told where to go. Further, browsers open up in different windows and force me to switch my context. Browsers work only on desktops. Browsers do not enable me to mix data from more than one source. One browser page per site. Browsers do not allow me to add my own stuff and store it away for future use. Browsers do not enable me to create my own format - my own view of data.

Because of this, despite a decade of the browser being born, the desktop applications are still there, and will continue to live. Further, with the growing complexity, there will be- and are - more interfaces that I would need to do my job. Interfaces that would track things for me, interfaces that would enable me to work on my documents that I store on my machine, interfaes that would bring me data wherever I am, without forcing me to change my context.

I want information to be available wherever I am. I may want it when I am creating a report in Word, or creating my family contacts in Outlook, or as I track my recent investments in a stock. And I find that using a browser to look up information is not as productive as I like it to be. No wonder, I have multiple applications on my desktop as I work, and as I flit between applications and web pages, changing my context, and cutting-pasting across windows several times during even 5 minutes. Worse is, when I am away from the office and away from my desktop.

Surely, there is a better way than a browser. The browser does what it does admirably. But does it do all the things that I want it to do? Is it possible to create a browser that is a one-interface-that-binds-them-all?

A Swiss Army Knife has many tools. There are multiple things a woman needs to do. How can one tool do them all?


No comments: