Here's a really great interview with Watson's Dan Wood. He's got some really interesting things to say about both his battle with Apple and User Interface design in general:
... I love what the Web has done to affect people's lives, but I hate its non-standardized, minimalist user interface. In a sense, the Web is a great big "dumb terminal" with fonts and graphics. Using the Web, I yearn for the subtle user interface behaviors and consistent controls you get in a real desktop application,like buttons enabling and disabling when it's appropriate to use them, scrollable lists, dynamically adjusting displays, things like that. To me, Watson is a way of taking back the great user experience that the Mac perfected. I still get a kick out of zipping through a site using Watson's columns browser that would otherwise require page after page after page on my browser.
As I'm working on my projects lately, I've been wondering if I should forgoe the web interface that I know best and go for a GUI. That's what my ranting about XUL and my playing with Thinlets has been about. It's really opening up another whole world for me to play in, but I think I'm just about at the end of my rope with freakin' HTML. I mean, how many table tags can you write in a lifetime? I think Dan's comments are pretty interesting. Now that the internet is starting to come back from being web only to it's roots of sharing informatin - this return we all know and love is called "Web Services" - I think that richer clients are going to be the way to go. However, the clients NEED to be auto-updatable. Web development has gotten programmers (me) in the mode of being able to fix bugs if we find them with immediate impact on the end user. Technologies like JNLP and XUL really are the way to go... but will they be able to build rich-enough GUI-apps like Watson?
By the way, I'd love to be able to start a company like Karelia. Cool app, dedicated users, small with total control. Not much to complain about that - except maybe Apple stealing all your ideas... Dan says it's possible at the end of the interview:
Well, since the readers of this will mostly be developers, I suppose I have something to say to that community: go for it! It's actually possible to get a new product built and selling with a minimal outlay of time and money. Of course, you need a good idea, and you have to work hard, but it is possible to make a living and build a successful software company, even in today's economy, even deploying on a "minority" operating system like the Mac, even Mac OS X only. The new generation of innovative applications like the ones I just mentioned don't come from the Adobes and the Microsofts, they come from the hearts and souls of the little companies with fewer than 5 or 10 people.
Very cool... There's that "innovate" word again. Think, Russ, think!
Yes, it's 4:30 a.m... I'm going to bed now.