Why Compromise with Browser-Based CAD/CAE Applications?

Why is there an ongoing effort to cram rich interactive 3D CAD/CAE applications into a web browser for desktop and laptop computers yet there is a proliferation of dedicated apps on tablets and smart phones?

Apps for Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, and Smart Phones

Whether the back-end simulation engines (e.g., CFD solver) for a CAD/CAE application are web-based (cloud) or otherwise the front-end GUI client surely does well to take advantage of the local computing resources. This ensures the best no compromise user experience as demonstrated by the apps on tablets and smart phones. No compromises are important as these are not short use applications - typically CAD/CAE engineers spend hours each day interactively creating and editing complex 3D models and running simulations.

Fully Utilize Affordable Workstations

Given that anyone seriously considering CAD/CAE activities can easily find an affordable, well equipped workstation/laptop (thanks to Moore's law) it seems a waste not to fully utilize its multi-core CPU and GPU capabilities for some, if not all, computing operations. While a fully web-based solution (GUI and back-end) for CAD/CAE has some advantages in terms of cross-platform compatibility, the compromise often results in poor interactive manipulation and responsiveness.

Light-Weight vs Heavy-Weight Clients

There's also this notion of light-weight vs heavy-weight clients. However, one person's notion of a light-weight client is someone else's heavy-weight client and vice versa. Given that disk space is no longer a limiting resource the whole notion of a light-weight vs heavy-weight client based on download size is largely redundant.

The same faulty logic applies to speed of operation - there's nothing inherently faster about a nominal light-weight client vs a heavy-weight client. It all comes down to how efficiently the application uses the available resources (e.g., algorithms, parallelism, hardware acceleration), which is irrespective of 'weight.' If we take a light-weight client to mean a combination of JavaScript and HTML that runs in a web browser, do we ignore the fact that the web browser is also part of the client and exclude its heft?

Why Compromise?

Clearly the best no compromise interactive front-end client for CAD/CAE is something to strive for, and currently the native application is doing a great job fulfilling that need. Just for the sake of saying that a CAD/CAE front-end can run in a web browser doesn't mean it should, or that it is a good solution given the high bar already set by native applications.