*chirp – someone should have told them there's a cross-OS way to build desktop apps

Today saw the release of a new desktop Twitter client – *chirp. It’s not like we needed another desktop client for Twitter, what with TweetDeck, DestroyTwitter, Spaz, Twhirl and others already available, but the unique feature of this new application is that it runs on Windows Vista only :)

Whilst there are undoubtedly many use-cases for building native OS desktop applications, I’m not sure that a Twitter client demands it, even if the animations are ‘beautiful’ (I don’t know if they are, as I can’t run the application here on Mac OS X).

Looking at this from both an application developer and end-user perspective, it seems pretty clear why AIR offers such a compelling solution. Take a look at my experience at trying to acquire a Twitter desktop application from the web:

*chirp – what do I do with this?

twitter_vista.jpg

DestroyTwitter (built on Adobe AIR) – badge-based installer works on Mac, Windows and Linux.

twitter_everywhere.jpg

Bottom line: if you want to reach the maximum potential audience for your application, build it on Adobe AIR.

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17 Responses to *chirp – someone should have told them there's a cross-OS way to build desktop apps

  1. to be fair, it looks like you’re trying to install the WPF app on an Apple machine – possibly you have a vm running, but still I wonder if the experience would be as confusing on a Windows box properly (or within the VM itself)?

    As for being non x-plat, well when the web itself is our platform then there’ll be no place for OS specific apps, but until then it’ll continue being divided like this and people will make their choices based on where they get their news/advice etc I guess. As a developer though, non x-plat would not be an option for me any more…

    Lastly, it’s nice to see a signed AIR app in DestroyTwitter. Too many are not signed and that must worry you guys surely? Not necessarily from a security standpoint only, but from a consumer confidence view too… I think Adobe could do with a push to get AIR developers cert’ed up maybe…

    Anyway, would be interested to see if installing the WPF app is as confusing when done natively. Even though folks like us might run multiple OS’s on the same machine, it’s not the norm I don’t think.

  2. It is also true that not everybody is happy with an AIR based Twitter client when it costantly takes 150MB of ram and more.

  3. Emanuele – looks like *chirp isn’t exactly light in terms of resources consumed at 130Mb RAM: http://twitpic.com/187yl.

  4. Pete – “to be fair, it looks like you’re trying to install the WPF app on an Apple machine”. Yes, I was playing the role of a consumer – i.e. someone who doesn’t know or care what either WPF or AIR is – who just wanted to get an application and was comparing the experiences ;)

    I agree on the need to ensure applications are signed with a trusted certificate – this is something we’ve been trying to encourage through the AIR marketplace. The recent introduction of developer certificates (rather than company certificates) should help here…

  5. It doesn’t install properly on a native Vista machine (just get a white fade where the app window is supposed to be). And it’s a 15mb download. So all-in-all quite a big fail it would seem, and a pretty crappy user-experience (although the install itself wasn’t overly painful).

    To respond to the point of the post (and to ask the obvious question), what’s the comparison of installed user-base of the Air runtime versus Vista?

  6. Tink says:

    It clearly says on the front page of their site that the app is for Vista. I’d be pretty sure most people know if they have Vista or not, and therefore as consumers wouldn’t try to install it if they didn’t have Vista.

    That said, unless they have some great features not available in AIR? or they had managed to greatly reduce the RAM consumed (which they don’t seem to have done) it does seem somewhat a silly choice of technology. The company behind the development are a MS house though.

  7. Tink: This post was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek ;)

    “I’d be pretty sure most people know if they have Vista or not, and therefore as consumers wouldn’t try to install it if they didn’t have Vista.”

    True – but my main point, on a serious note, was questioning why you would want to restrict your application to people on a single version of a particular OS, when you could choose to make it available to a much wider audience with AIR.

  8. Like Chris above, it didn’t install properly on my Vista machine either. Kind of sucky showing out of the gates, eh?

    Frankly, if I were a big OS manufacturer, I would push folks to create apps that worked on my OS only, come on, its about money after all. I’d still need to embrace x-plat though too some to make sure users wouldn’t defect wholly to some other OS.

    DK

  9. Tink says:

    yup i agreed with ya

    “it does seem somewhat a silly choice of technology”

    but we know why

    ” The company behind the development are a MS house though.”

  10. Scott Barnes says:

    heh as an ex-employee of Microsoft Andrew, that’s just very weak posture to take.

    If this is what you guys need to do to sell Adobe AIR then best of luck with that FUD.

    Let me know when a compelling solution other than Twitter arrives to the AIR platform, as i’m still waiting for the promise to come through…

    -
    Scott / Microsoft.

  11. johnb says:

    Andrew,
    There are plenty of none Adobe MAC applications that require you to have Leopard and won’t run on Tiger – this is the same as comparing apps that require Vista and not XP.

    Closer to home what about Adobe products that only run on a single OS (granted not single version of OS)?

    Adobe Capitvate
    Live Cycle Designer
    Flash Media Encoding Server?
    Flash Media Live encoder?

    Are we to expert all future Adobe products to be built in AIR?

    Does the same apply to building websites? Granted, you’ve got great figures for AIR/Flash penetration but the only true way to achieve maximum potential audience is to avoid these technologies in preference of Javascript – how many iPhones are there, 10 million?

    ps. these thoughts are my own – not that from my employeers IP :)

  12. Mike says:

    Hi,

    I’ve no link to the vendor and I’ve not run the app but it looks like a WPF app which would mean that it can run on XP,Vista and 7 (the last 2 without additional runtimes).

    There are pros/cons for cross-platform apps – if there weren’t then all apps produced by Microsoft, Apple and Adobe would be cross platform which they are not.

    Mike.

  13. creacog says:

    Noting Pete’s point: “Too many are not signed … … but from a consumer confidence view too… I think Adobe could do with a push to get AIR developers cert’ed up maybe”

    And Andrew’s response : “the need to ensure applications are signed with a trusted certificate – this is something we’ve been trying to encourage through the AIR marketplace. The recent introduction of developer certificates (rather than company certificates) should help”

    Maybe Adobe could consider including a developer signing certificate where developers pass their AIR ACE exams ?

  14. Scott – not sure how you define compelling, but there are some good customer success stories for AIR here: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/showcase/index.cfm?event=finder&productid=351521&loc=en_us.

    Johnb – I quite clearly said “there are undoubtedly many use-cases for building native OS desktop applications”. This post wasn’t about saying you shouldn’t build Windows-only apps, Mac OS-only apps, etc – it was questioning the reason for building a Twitter client using WPF when there are better solutions available. Adobe has never expressed an intention to build all of our applications on AIR, not yet anyway ;)

    Mike (who should have stated that he works for Microsoft) – I take your point on XP, although *chirp’s homepage states that it is “The Vista Twitter client”. I agree with you on there being pros/cons for cross-platform apps and even stated in my post that there are many use-cases for building native OS desktop applications; just not convinced that Twitter is one of them.

  15. radekg says:

    @Andrew: There is always a better technology. I just installed Digsby which is cross-platform as well and it takes 15MB RAM on my win7. That is 50MB less than TwitDeck and 9MB less than empty AIR app. And yes, 115MB less than *chirp. But that is not the point of me speaking here. The point is, there are people who won’t install AIR because it is Flash. Because they don’t trust Flash. And they will go for *chirp, witty or any other win-only solution.

  16. radekg – I just went to download Digsby, but it is not yet available for Mac or Linux. Development in AIR would mean a single code base and availability on Mac, Windows and Linux at the same time.

    Given that 99% have Flash installed (based on the statistics compiled by Milward Brown), that would mean that 1% or thereabouts do not have it installed. Presumably a proportion of that 1% would not have it installed because they don’t trust Flash or Adobe.

    I’m not sure why someone would trust *chirp or any other application more than Flash, but I fully appreciate that people have individual choice over what they choose to install or not.

  17. Chris – I haven’t been able to find figures published by Microsoft on sales/distribution of Vista; if anyone knows of any please let me know. We published figures yesterday confirming that there had been 100 million installations of the AIR runtime.

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