Jon Udell has a post on rich GUI's versus the browser, and while there is much to be said for the point that rich GUI's provide more efficient responsive work interfaces, Udell's final comment is for me the signal that the rich application model may be Just Wrong:
Trying to sort out a permissions problem with IIS 6, I clicked a Help button and landed on a Web page. The page could only describe the tree-navigation procedure required to find the tabbed dialog box where I could address the problem. It could not link to that dialog box. This is nuts when you stop and think about it. Documentation of GUI software needs pages of screenshots and text to describe procedures that, on the Web, are encapsulated in links that can be published, bookmarked, and e-mailed. A GUI that doesn't embrace linking can never be truly rich.That is so very true. At my job we opted for a rich GUI as the centerpiece of the workflow system we have built. That was a good idea because of the responsiveness, and also because the GUI builder tools available on the desktop by far exceed the tools available to build browser based applications. The complexity you can accomplish with very few days of work using an efficient GUI builder (at work that's Delphi - but I'm sure Visual Studio .NET would also prove the point) can not be matched with browser based development.
After a while our application has, however, developed browser envy in the spirit of Udell's example. The inability to reference particular vies in the application and send these vies in email is annoying for example. You end up talking to people on the phone while they are also using the application, and the only way you can point them to the desired information is by walking them through the GUI.
Further, the nature of our workflow application is that it integrates information in a number of formats from disparate sources, whois servers, web sites, email etc. It would be preferable if all of these resources were linkable and the application was simple an open resource assembler for these resources, each of which could then be viewed and edited through an application specialized for that purpose. That is just not a reality with todays GUI applications, and the closedness of applications is not an accident but rather a lock-in enhancing strategy, as previously discussed. We're not going to have our cake amd eat it too.
Udell's post is in reference to comments by a number of microsoftees, notable Robert Scoble, and after Udells post on rich GUI's versus the browser (and the discussion is subsequently continued by among others Tim Bray). People like Bray believe that the irony of this sad state of affairs is that people are getting so used to the open resource linking that they.
My feelings are mixed. Resource centric, linkable apps are essential, but my personal counterpoint to this story is that I started editing this post using Moveable Types 'Blog This' browser popup, but mid edit I switched the text to w.bloggar - my go to rich GUI blog post editor, which has faster and more response preview capability, and a ton of shortcut keys to simplify editing.