Thick or thin, that is the question. At least for 'heads-down' workers typically involved with processing large amounts of information on screen extremely rapidly, thick client applications have long been considered the only way to go.
Proponents of thick clients used to argue for the richness of UI that could be presented, but I feel that modern browser based apps on the web show that this doesn't have to be the way. I'm sure you have your favorites you use every day.
So it comes back to performance - speed of refreshing the screen and displaying information. Heads-down users need the applications to work fast, update dynamic data rapidly, display document images in sub-second times, so that their boss can benefit from an aggregate of 'per-click' savings. Thick client-server apps claim the gold standard here.
Can dynamic AJAX applications really keep up? After all, the limitation here becomes the latency of the network. Can browser applications compete with the thick client running on an over-inflated PC generating dynamic displays from data cached ahead of time? Unlikely, as the thick client probably wins every time, pulling data behind the scenes in large chunks.
Silverlight and Flash are battling for the new rich Internet application space. I question whether they just provide a nice toolset for building highly dynamic application UIs that roll out easily, or can they really provide a higher performance operation? Don't get me wrong, anything that speeds the design and deployment of applications is a good thing, but when they are really a nice skin on Internet technology, can they offer the performance of a true thick app?
When the standard heads-down applications typically are plain, keyboard driven, frankly having little glitz or glamour, is there a place for rich Internet application technologies? Or will software vendors just adopt them as a sales tool, to out-pretty the other guys.
A post from the Improving New Account Opening blog