Yesterday Brian published an article titled “If rewriting your Windows desktop app was so easy, you would have done it by now. Long live Windows remoting!” Unfortunately he’s wrong about one of his main points.
Brian thinks that the future of many Windows desktop applications is to live in the datacenter and be accessed remotely, possibly with some sort of UI transformation. Once that happens, client device management will be a lot different, too. I completely agree with him on all those points.
But when it comes to rewriting Windows applications for other platforms, Brian says “If it hasn't happened by now, it's probably never going to happen.” I think he’s wrong on this point.
Here are four reasons why:
1. Enterprise mobility is slow, so it’s too soon to say it won’t happen.
Many people believe (myself included) that mobility in the enterprise is 5 or so years behind mobility in the consumer space, and that we’re just now getting to a tipping point where a lot more companies are thinking about mobilizing applications. It’s too early to say “If it hasn't happened by now, it's probably never going to happen,” because the majority of companies either haven’t started or are just beginning to start going beyond the basics of mobility.
2. Transforming Windows to web is not the same as transforming Windows to mobile.
Brian mentions that this idea of “Web-ifying” Windows applications has been around for years. But with the older examples he gives, he’s talking about going from a Windows application that uses a large screen and is controlled by a mouse and keyboard to another application that... wait for it... uses a large screen and is controlled by a mouse and keyboard!
I’d argue that going from that large screen/mouse/keyboard experience to a mobile device with a small touch-screen is a more significant change, and thus a more powerful inflection point for rewriting applications. Now you might say, “But we’ve had the iPhone since 2007,” and I’d say see point #1.
3. This time we have pressure from users.
With Brian’s older examples, all the changes were driven by IT. No user ever said, “Hey, I wish this application was a .NET application instead of a traditional Windows desktop application.” But today, thanks to the consumerization of IT, FUIT, and all the rest of that stuff, the pressure to modernize applications is coming on hard from all sides.
4. It’s getting easier to make enterprise mobile apps.
Brian says. "If it were easy to rewrite your Windows desktop application for touch, then you would have done it by now." He has a point, but that line of thinking is a bit out of date. Yes, for a long time for many companies, mobile app development was too complicated, not worth it, or otherwise out of reach for one reason or another. But as I wrote in my recent article about mobile app development platforms, this is reversing for a variety of reasons. Look at the rise of Mobile Backend as a Service, multichannel app publishing frameworks, and simpler development tools. All these make it much easier to create replacements for older applications.
This isn’t all apps
One last note: Of course I don’t believe that this means all Windows applications will be rewritten. There will be use cases for Windows applications in the data center (both with and without UI adaptations), on client VMs, and on local clients forever. But for the reasons I listed, I also think we’ll see more new waves of rewriting Windows applications, too. Sorry brother, in this case you’re just not right!