Apple @ Work: Using web apps on macOS is streamlined with site specific browser applications

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Apple @ Work: Using web apps on macOS is streamlined with site specific browser applications

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I’ve written countless articles about the growth of software as a service applications. There are clear benefits to SaaS business models over one-time-use purchases. Many applications have morphed into windows into a cloud service. One “hack” that many IT administrators should consider to streamline their users’ experience is “site specific” applications designed to launch a single website.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed an enterprise IT network from 2009 to 2021. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.

Back when I was running IT at a school in the later 2000s, I made the somewhat controversial decision to pull the plug on our aging Exchange server and switch to Google Apps for Education. Yes, it would be more controversial to manage your own Exchange environment over a hosted solution in today’s IT environment, but this was a long time ago.

One of the “pitches” I made to senior leaders is the ability to use any application you want to access your email. If you remember, at the time, it wasn’t as easy to access Exchange email on OS X and iPhone OS. In addition, Apple only supported Exchange 2007 when it eventually did add support across its products.

Even though I pitched because everyone could use their preferred app for email, I secretly wanted users to use Google’s web interface. I had this vision of moving people away from Microsoft Office to Google Docs and Spreadsheets, so Gmail was my “Trojan horse.” I feared that if users migrated to another desktop application for email, they’d be less likely to use Google’s web collaboration suite.

Site Specific Browser

To combat the “lack” of a desktop app, I used Fluid to build a Google Email, Google Calendar, and Google Docs “app” that I deployed as part of our OS X image. As a result, every user had these “apps” on their OS X dock when they launched the computer. Furthermore, I firmly believe it helped drive the adoption of Gmail and Google’s other productions.

We now know the history of what happened. SaaS-based web apps dominated the next decade, and Google Workspace became an equal peer to Microsoft in the workplace for communication and collaboration.

Today, many IT administrators will deploy web clips to company-owned IT devices to help streamline access. I still think there’s room for site-specific browser apps on macOS as well. If your company uses a solution without a robust desktop app, you can help users quickly access it by building a site-specific browser app and packaging it up. Apps like Fluid, Unite, and Chromeless can all accomplish this task. You’ll want to experiment with your specific applications and deployment methods, but I firmly believe it’s still a beneficial use case in macOS today. I would definitely use a site-specific browser app over a Catalyst application.

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