Rockford Lhotka

 Monday, April 2, 2018
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I want to put a stake in the ground. I could be right, I could be wrong, but at least I'll have recorded this stand for future reference.

WebAssembly plus PWA technology means that the future of the "client platform" is the browser.

All existing client platforms are now officially "legacy" and will just fade away over the next couple decades. Windows, macOS, iOS, Android all are just walking dead now.

I'm not saying this will be fast, or even painless. But Microsoft is relegating Windows to second-class status, even though it runs on over a billion devices. The Mac, nice as people think it is, has never exceeded 12% market share. The smartphone market appears to be maturing - meaning it isn't growing any more, so there won't be massive income to drive new iOS or Android features.

And ultimately people have never purchased computers (including smartphones) for the OS. They purchase them because the devices run valuable apps - they do valuable things, and that means software.

Over the next few years as wasm and PWA concepts mature, we'll have browser deployed smart client apps with native (enough) performance.

Essentially, all the reasons why web sites haven't been able to compete with apps are being resolved by the wasm/PWA concepts. Web-style deployment? Browsers have that. App-style deployment? PWAs fix that. Performance? wasm fixes that. Porting existing massive codebases into the future? .NET (for example) on wasm helps address that.

I strongly suspect that Microsoft's recent org changes around Windows are just a recognition that the "client platform" of the future is whatever is necessary to run a browser that supports wasm/PWA - which is essentially all modern browsers.

What we think of as an OS today is merely a browser-delivery vehicle for the future. Something has to provide all those drivers and whatnot so browser-based apps can rely on them.

Yeah, I hear the gaming community screaming. And as one of them, I agree - I expect to continue to pump money into a "real computer" for a long time to come so I can play Battlefield and Elite Dangerous.

But for everyone else (and that's most people) the era of a "real computer" with a "real operating system" is coming to a close.

The browser with wasm/PWA is the new client platform, everything else is a vestige of a time that's come and gone.

fwiw, this was a topic of hot discussion in 1999 before the .com bubble burst. I remember speaking at various conferences and hearing big debates between fellow speakers, as well as attendees in the hallways, about whether the browser should remain a colorful-but-dumb terminal, or should become a true client platform for app dev.

That conversation was large derailed by the .com collapse (the dot bomb?). Why it has finally come back around nearly 20 years later is an interesting question unto itself.

But here we are, with the browser clearly an app dev client platform, capable of hosting rich, interactive smart client apps with web-like and app-like deployment, and (via wasm) performance at a native enough level to be viable.

Monday, April 2, 2018 8:12:20 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer