LONG POST AHEAD. MY APOLOGIES, but you three got me thinking. If this goes where I think it will, I'll eventually be replacing my Microsoft rants with Google monopoly rants. But consider how boring your PC would be if it were not connected to the web. It suddenly reverts to being a lot less "fun," for lack of a better word.
Lashiec — I don't know where all this fuss and desire to push web apps comes from. How do you run a browser without an OS? Are they going to transform the OS into a full-blown browser?... The future, I say, will be composed of desktop and web apps.... a synergy between the two models will be better for everyone... Bah, I'm sounding like and old jerk instead of a young guy!
steeladept — Web apps immediately lend themselves to a subscription based model.
Carol — Trouble is, by the time this all shakes out Linux will have been fragmented so far and be so tied up with proprietary stuff as companies try to customise it in non-standard ways (within the GPL system) that Linux will probably die before it ever gets into wide circulation - or remain a geek-haven.... I am going to have to start thinking about Linux as an alternative in the medium term.... Who knows maybe Jobs & Co. will see the light and make MacOS available to PC users - then I might be tempted, but I don't want to get locking into Apple hardware (or prices).... The biggest problem witht he coming webapps approach is that huge numbers of people have no access to high speed internet.
, you're sounding just like a thoughtful guy. Money will play the primary role, and that's a big beef with me, too. I want to choose to buy something, but I don't want it automatically extracted from my microscopic checking account every month before I get a chance to buy macaroni and soup (yes, yes, everything I eat comes from a box or a can). But today, there's not too many of programs left that absolutely need to be standalone desktop applications. Both steeladept
see the writing on the wall: the money is not in the apps, it's in access.Because they run in the browser, the biggest advantage of web apps is that they're cross-platform
. Again, this cedes a natural advantage to GNU/Linux, for why pay Microsoft for their restrictive license, the cost of beefed up hardware, endemic DRM, WGA, etc., if I don't have to? I can use a small Linux distro that runs on any old machine and uses as little as 512K memory if needed. The Microsoft Tax
is suddenly gone, and Windows is just another option. Just like office file formats, without locking you into both the OS and the application via the proprietary file format, Microsoft becomes just another choice among many, rather than enjoying an inherently dominant advantage. Seeing users walk to GNU/Linux is the last thing Microsoft wants to happen, so they're going full speed ahead with various Windows Live strategies. With none of Microsoft's apps written for GNU/Linux, they're at a grave disadvantage — unless you buy their
OS. Microsoft is going to build a WebOS right into their next operating system, perhaps even within the second Service Pack of Vista. You won't be able to tell when you're using desktop applications or when you're at msn.com. This is already largely true for Office 2007 research services. They'll never develop anything for OS X or for Linux (or for browsers other than IE), so Microsoft's influence will be limited to what people will buy from them via their FlexGo (pay-as-you-go) initiative.A "WebOS" isn't that complex. Essentially, there are three main parts to the system:
- The browser (along with other browser-ish applications like Konfabulator) becomes the primary application interface through which the user views content, performs services, and manages data on their local machine and on the Web, often without even knowing the difference. Something like Opera, Firefox, Safari, or IE... ideally browser agnostic.
- Web apps of the sort we're all familiar with: Zoho Office, Gmail/Google Apps, Flickr, and MySpace, as well as other applications that are making the Web an ever richer environment for getting stuff done. (And ideally all Ajaxed-to-the-max to provide an experience closer to that of traditional desktop apps.)
- A local web server to handle the data delivery and content display from the local machine to the browser. This local server will likely be highly optimized for its task, but would be capable of running locally installed web apps (e.g. a local copy of Gmail and all its associated data).
That's it. Aside from the browser and the web server, apps would be written for the WebOS and won't be specific to Windows, OS X, or GNU/Linux. This is completely achievable for organizations like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, or the Mozilla Foundation to make happen.In turn, for application developers, the great advantage is
that instead of writing two or more programs for multiple platforms (one for the Web, one for Windows, etc.), they can write one app that will run on any machine (or phone!) with the WebOS using the same code base. We all know the advantages of locally run applications: you can use them when you're not connected; as Carol notes
, they're not dependent on connection speed; you can use an icon in the tray to open Gmail in your favorite browser (I use AutoHotkey to trigger that behavior). For applications using larger files like images, video, and audio, those files could be stored and manipulated locally instead of waiting for transfer (as Thinkfree Office does). For users, upgrades and updates will be as easy as hitting the refresh key — say goodbye to 46-digit activation and license codes, and overnight, piracy evaporates
. Your desktop system is suddenly cleaner.There are also disadvantages to WebOS applications
for most people. As a UI, a web page is lame
. (2) Someway, somehow, they're going to cost you, and it's going to keep costing you to use them. Sure email along with a few other apps will remain ad supported, but anything substantial will want your credit card. Finally, as Lashiec
suggests, a WebOS is an "all ur data belong to us
" situation that is not welcome. Governments already have access to phone and medical records, and with one stroke of the pen, they can gain access to any data I have locally or somewhere on one of Google's data farms.