Desktop Disadvantage

November 24, 2010

Mobile applications flourish, and it makes a desktop UI developer jealous. Desktop applications are supposed to have more system resources: big screen size, full-sized keyboard, a mouse, and a fast CPU.  So what?  Two decades after a mouse became widely available it’s still considered an optional device on a desktop. The same applies to every other aspect: screen resolutions vary from 1024×768 to 1920×1200, and screen sizes vary from 10” to 30”. This directly affects user feedback. When recently I made an app that used 48×48 icons, I had complaints that the icons are too big. Come on, iPhone 3 icons are 57×57, and iPhone 4 icons are 114×114! On a desktop, we are still mastering the techniques of making readable 16×16 icons. Another thing I am jealous of is touch gestures. Zooming and scrolling is just natural in touch-screen UI. On a desktop, we have ugly scrollbars and primitive non-standardized zoom controls. Desktop apps must be 5 times cooler than mobile apps because they have 5 times more resources! It’s time to reevaluate the window-based concept of desktop UI. It’s not user’s job to move windows around.

App integration also deserves mentioning. There is no simple cross-platform app integration mechanism on a desktop. Software installation, upgrades, and removal is a pain that users shouldn’t deal with. It’s one of the reasons, I think, why web applications ate the market share of desktop apps. Java and Flex try to address this problem but they have a long way to go. Clearly, it’s the OS to blame here. Linux, Windows, Mac OS all suffer from these issues. I hope the wisdom of iPhone and Android will rub on a desktop someday.

One Response to “Desktop Disadvantage”

  1. I really missing having a Windows-like task bar on my Android screen. =/

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