This is something we having be mulling over for a while, but with the every other web app now having some great desktop add on as well it does raise the question where do we see this all heading.
A simple sweeping assessment is that one way or another once internet connections are fast/robust enough to deliver it then surely the web browser as such will essentially become an alternative operating system.
The way we see it there are certain commercial considerations that could drive such a move, the primary one being license control. This new web based system environment would deliver a digital world where licensing issues would no longer be an issue as the applications would be served directly via the web and not installed locally – access would demand a genuine login via a paid subscription. Commercial users would no doubt be able to buy a for life key/login but amateur users would have the option of pay per use on applications. Photoshop Express by Adobe already shows that the software houses are thinking in terms of web apps, and out of the box subscription on a per use basis already exists for some products, such as photoshop, in the offline world.
Google apps is another pointer in this direction – the notion of creating a system like environment online that can service all you needs – mail, calendar, simple document creation.
Yet we are still seeing daily releases of new desktop apps that essentially take the need to log on to the web out of the equation for site based tasks such as uploading images to Flickr, writing a blog post to WordPress or Twittering with the Twhirl. In some cases such as the Destroy Flickr Air app the whole online experience it brought to the desktop not just the uploading/creating features. So how come – if the web is becoming all powerful in terms of the functionality and services it can provide why are people developing desktop versions of web apps. Simply because connectivity is still a huge issue.
Broadband still isn’t universally great – here in Australia it is on the whole average, wireless broadband is an even lesser proposition again and in many markets relatively expensive, and with poor coverage. What desktop applications allow the user to do is download a dump of information when connected and then use, edit consume that information while offline – while commuting for example. Yet it would seem at some point the delivery of online connectivity will reach a point where these offline versions just become redundant – raising again the question of the web browser becoming operating system of the future.