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Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

The Rustling Trees of Tafiti

Category : Technology

Tired of all these years of using the Back-button? Being haunted by Cookies? Bored with the so-so user interfaces of mediocre web applications? Want to experience that Vista Feeling but don’t have the courage to buy the product for at least two years (if anybody wants to sell it to you in the first place)? We may have a nice link for you. Almost sneakily, Microsoft has put a new search application online. It’s obviously a beta and it is built as a front-office on the well-known – but not so heavily used – Live service. But more interesting is that the application is based on the new Silverlight platform, essentially a browser plug-in, supporting gorgeous looking, highly interactive, multimedia-based applications. Rich Internet Applications really, in the style that we learned to know through Adobe’s Flash and Flex. tafiti%20screenshot.JPG Admitted, that was quite a piece of infamous name-dropping in just a few sentences (Live, plug-in, Flash). But Tafiti – this is the Swahili word for ‘researching’, are we seeing some Ubuntu-inspired activity here? – gives a revealing look at what the next generation of user interfaces may look like. Just think about the mouse and information will pop up somewhere on the screen. The stunning graphics are a true delight. Watch the moving tree view, with the search results sort of fluttering around. Could bring tears to your eyes. The question - of course – is if these are tears of happiness or of sheer misery. Yes, there will be many criticasters, dedicated as they are to the serene calmness of the Google results list. But even so, many will love their screen filled with whistles and bells and all sort of things, well, just happening. I am slightly worried what tools like this will do to software engineers that like to have and apply it all. It’s what happened to systems development already many times before: you get better, more robust applications with a programming language with only limited functionality. Nevertheless, we invented silly, over-complex programming languages like C++ and Java and use them too often where we don’t need them. You build faster and have to test less if you assemble from pre-defined components. Nevertheless, we just love to create highly customised, unique systems, preferably built from scratch. Windows pop up and disappear in Tafiti. They look beautiful, but they are very different from what we typically use on our desktop. Actually, any developer can invent his or hers own user interface style, and the Silverlight toolkit will gladly enable it. It’s more or less like we all experience with DVD menu’s: there are no standards for what a menu should look like and as a result, we have to find our way through the brainchilds of individual developers and stylists over and over again. Already years ago, Vincent Flanders coined the phenomenon “Mystery Meat”, and by then he couldn’t even imagine just how mysterious applications would look in the near future. Yes, a lot can be said against the Spartan minimalism of highly standardised user interfaces and application functionality. But then again, there’s a lot that only 300 Spartans could achieve, remember (just watch out for the DVD). The best you can do is try it yourself. Don’t be afraid, just download and install the Silverlight runtime (it’s only software and nothing lives forever anyway) and do a few searches with Tafiti. Maybe you even want to experience a few of the other demo applications that are available through the Silverlight website. And then let us know if you have seen the Future of IT or not. You can use the comments for this, and they are not even displayed as a rustling tree. Yet.

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Ron Tolido

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