Software Apps Crash Too

I had an interesting App experience this morning. While using The Weather Network’s iPad Application, my device crashed. Hard. It locked up so completely that my attempts to hard boot the device with a forced power-cycle didn’t work. Ten minutes later, the OS did finally auto-reboot on its own; but during that time, I seriously considered that my battery was going to have to run out before I would be able to regain access.

The experience was a gentle reminder to a long standing issue for me. That the web, as a working environment, is so incredibly rock solid; and that application software — even Apps — are not. I may still be in the minority on this, but if I counted the number of machine stoppages I’ve had over the years, the vast majority (more than 95%) have been caused by application software errors. And now, even the most light-weight of environments — our mobile Apps — are causing similar problems.

In light of Ben Schorr’s column on Google Apps, and in light of Simon’s Apple Apps Store post, I am considering this disadvantage once again. Even small software applications are software nonetheless; and admittedly, it’s a comfort issue for me (I’m a ‘web guy’), but I have little faith in business services that are not delivered predominantly on web architecture. As anti-cloud as some opinions are in the technology community, I find myself pulled further and further in the opposite direction.

Comments

  1. I tend to agree. Working for a static analysis vendor its nice to see when app makers use static analysis to help fix the bugs, but the reality is that it is more of a cowboy culture.

    We all know Apple’s reason for all the apps. RIM and Android phones can make use of the browser but the reality is that people are loving the apps…sigh.

  2. Just for the record, web browsers, web browser plug-ins, web servers, and the databases and software that comprise your web applications are all applications running on a computer.

    Web browsers and web servers, because of their long pedigree and wide usage, will usually have all the kinks worked out of them. Web applications, though, particularly those aimed at niche groups, are susceptible to the same problems as apps.

  3. Jason, you’re only telling part of the story. Yes they are still applications, but *where* the operations are executed is far more important when it comes to stability. When a website application runs, the environment is as the developers intended. It’s like running Microsoft Office in the local testing environment in Redmond. I’m sure Excel & Word work flawlessly at MS headquarters.

    Applications on a PC or Mac, however, have to conform to the user’s OS, shared memory, and contend with an infinite number of hardware driver combinations. Any of which can crater and cause the machine to die. Web applications, by comparison, have a single OS environment customized by the product’s developers.

    You can even take the web out of the equation here. It’s the same reasons that dumb terminals & client architecture worked so well in the early days of computers.

  4. A halfway house has been thin client technology. For a while, Osgoode made considerable use of Citrix for offsite work. This meant less bandwidth use between laptop + client and the app on the law school server, and, as you say, Steve, the security of knowing that the processing occurred in a well arranged environment. The disk image users saw could be altered for everyone at a moment’s notice, meaning apps could easily be added and kept up to date.

    I don’t know if law firms use thin client technology anymore. It might appeal more than cloud computing, given the anxiety about the location of cloud data etc. On the other hand, running your own servers is never a lovely job.

  5. Well, yes, I agree…but I think this problem is going to be around for a while- just growing pains. It’s kind of a shame, but I think we just have to keep looking ahead. I think eventually (not to long in the future), apps and browsers etc will be so stable and user friendly that we will hardly even remember the days of crashing! Mobile App Development