It's all part of a trend that will see improved user interfaces claiming a good chunk of what market researcher IDC estimates will be a $3.1 billion portal market by 2006. As Web services come on the scene to stitch together different applications to deliver real-time, personalized information to users and as consumer and small-business adoption of broadband connections grows, companies are looking for ways to tap these capabilities to yield competitive advantage. Rich-client interfaces offer that possibility, because they provide Windows-like power at the client, while still running from a centralized server to deliver data aggregated from multiple sources to a single browser page.
EarthLink believes its interactive interface will more closely bind customers to its services. "The personalized aspects are pretty sticky," says Tracy Boyd, director of EarthLink's Personal Start page project.
The Casey Group says it's already seeing a return on its investment in Curl's rich-client technology. Clients want the visibility a Curl dashboard yields into operations, says chief technology architect Stephen Ruszkowski. Says Ruszkowski, "We're introducing it in some way to 75% of our clients."