So for the past few posts I have been talking about blurring the lines between desktop and web applications and the technologies that will get us there. And in my first post on this topic I mentioned a technology called 'site specific browsers'. Site specific browsers are just that, it is a browser window dedicated to one site or in the case of BI and EPM a web based application. The installed application gets a shortcut on the user's desktop or the start menu and is a simple click away from running. You can read more about site specific browsers and how Mozilla Labs describes their product 'Prism'.
So in doing some searches I found that there are 2 major options with site specific browsers, Fluid and Prism. Fluid is Mac only so for my testing I used Prism. I decided to throw a couple of BI applications at it and see what I thought of the user experience. (I ignored minor bugs or issues as this stuff is still not official product). So I put Workspace (9.3.1) and OBI (10.1.3.3.2) in Prism and played around a bit. Here are some screen shots:
Both applications worked pretty well out of the box and it was nice not to have all the clutter and overhead that a browser carries with it. It was also nice to have the applications launch from a shortcut on the desktop. Some of the things I didn't like were as follows:
- There were times where it would have been nice to have navigation (ability to go back). This is not an issue with Prism itself, it was the fact that the application was designed to live in a browser.
- This does not change the application experience that much. (I did not expect it to) Basically if you are happy with the application experience this will improve on it. If you hate the way the application works then this will do little.
Overall this is a very cool concept but you are simply making web applications run as if they were desktop applications. I will use Prism for things like Google Mail or Yahoo Mail but at the end of the day, from a user experience perspective, I still prefer Thunderbird or Outlook for email. It would be cool to see if an RIA (Rich Internet Application) developed in Flex or Silverlight can run in a site specific browser…