An interesting insight. I like the ideas. I sold against Caterpillar for years and know from experience that even the best solutions have acceptable/desirable alternatives. Where we had our problems besting Caterpillar's efforts was in figuring out where the alternatives really lay. But once we sat down and did the exercise we could sell against them with relative ease.
The more I see of fat client solutions the more convinced I become that thin client can be a desirable alternative. The thin clients include HTML, 5250, and Java to some degree. Beyond that there don't seem to be many thin client choices. So my guess is that there is plenty of room for good text-based user applications if we really wanted to pursue them.
Anectdotal evidence: My dentist, a Personal Computer hobbyist and self-acclaimed Windows Guru, uses a DOS program to run his office scheduling and billing. I asked him in 1997 "How come this isn't Windows?" he told me the Windows version had been delayed and would be shipping real soon now. I asked him again last week; he seemed pleased that the Windows version will be shipping real soon now.
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Subject: Re: AS/400 vs. NT
AS/400 vs NT is not necessarily a battle of user interfaces features. We have been working with AS/400 solutions using Visual Basic as a front end for years, using the AS/400 for a stable database server which also runs intense processing of data.
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