Thick clients can be very smart


Smart (thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/michiganmoves/)

I was reading some blurb from a big GI vendor which included a mention of “thick clients”, my initial response was to wonder whether they meant that their customers were stupid. You might be so cynical (more than me even) that you would respond “if the customers continue to buy those old style heavy footprint desktop applications then they are “thick clients”

The thin/thick terminology is perhaps unfortunate but it does illustrate an apparent miscomprehension in the GI software world. There was a view that if you want to do really powerful things with GI then you need a substantial application running on the desktop but not any more. Increasingly smart customers are recognising that they can do some pretty heavy lifting on a server (cloud or on premise) via a browser interface.

What is probably still the case is that those “power users” (another misleading term) who want to carry out ad hoc processing or analysis will still prefer to use one of their favourite desktop applications (ArcSomething, MapWhatever, GeoThingmy) a.k.a. a “thick client“. Of course that could be because the complex interfaces and range of functions are so impenetrable that they perpetuate the specialist (man in a white coat) image of the user – resisting the growing recognition that spatial isn’t special.

It seems to me that the ratio of “thick clients” to total (let alone potential) users is diminishing rapidly, even the largest of organisations probably only need a handful. That could be threatening if your business is substantially based on “thick client” offerings. The smart customer will be looking carefully at how many “thick clients” they really need.