Pharaoh's Dream

by Micah Dubinko

The line between "thin client" and "thick client" gets blurrier every day. In the end, what really matters is a "standards-based client".

Last week at XML 2002, I saw demonstrations of a couple of vendors' tools that map a user interface to XML. A common theme is that the vendor's application, and only the vendor's application, can be used to fill the form. From the perspective of the vendor, this can seem like an ideal approach. Customers, on the other hand, have a different view.

People are passionate about their data, and will always demand full access to it. Thus, the mounting popularity of XML and related technologies. Forms are, like XML itself, a set of rules for a directed interchange of data; data about data; metadata.

Customers tend to resist efforts to standardize their core data, because it's so important to them that they want to keep in in whatever format they choose. Metadata, however, isn't thought about as much, and can slip through the cracks. But all the same reasons why full access is good for data apply to metadata as well, and having only a single option can result in vendor lock-in.

So if you are thinking about the data structure of your organization, think about open standards. Watch out for flashy interfaces wrapped over proprietary formats. As a bonus, you'll find that multiple implementations of a standard tend to span the continuum between thin and thick clients.

Choices are good. Pharoah, eat your heart out.

Seen any thin clients or fat cows lately? Talk back!