Ajax Apps Really Do Work

Click for full screenshotI'm not a big fan of the idea that client/server applications can ever replace their desktop counterparts. This has been tried many times in the past and always failed (anybody remember "The Network Is The Computer [TM]"). The barriers to this are mostly centered on that annoying little thing called the speed of light. What I'm seeing lately though are more client-oriented systems (heavily scripted client-side) with the guts handled by the server. And that's really the main focus behind web 2.0 style applications; shift more into the client/browser. The mix feels right this time.

If you don't believe me, then take a look at ajaxWrite. No really, click on the link, go into the app. It's amazing. After a few seconds of loading you'll have a simple version of Word running right in the browser. Once they integrate other applications and integrate online storage (like Omnidrive), you get a glimpse of a world without heavy-duty hardware and operating systems. Applications are updated in an instant. No more viruses, installations, licence keys or lost CDs.

It's not for everyone, but there sure are a lot who would never need anything more. Even the most skeptical would agree there are some applications they would use in this way.

Let's go another step though. What happens when the online applications do things that the desktop counterparts can't, such as third-party services integration. Imagine if Microsoft wanted to update Word to let you search or upload photos in Flickr. They would need to write the code and then blast it down to millions of machines. A trivial update like that is never going to happen. But an online service like ajaxWrite could roll out such a feature overnight. Now lets go another step. Roll out a whole host of applications (calendar, spreadsheet, database, write), integrate file sharing, photos, tagging, shopping (and tangler for messaging)… just keep on going. The potential integration and application functionality is mind boggling, and simple leaves desktop applications in their wake.

When will this happen? I can't say for sure. Though it's certainly not for another few years. (Tangler, for example, is heavily focused on the desktop.) But is talk of the web as an application platform really that far fetched. For most of us, the desktop operating system is not going anywhere anytime soon, but there is definitely a new kid on the block and I can see it taking a big part of the applications market.

And guess who's best positioned to take advantage of it… that's right. The big G.

UPDATE: Turns out ajaxWrite isn't really powered by ajax. It's XUL – hence why it only works in Firefox. Maybe I should rename the post to Browser Apps Really Do Work.

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4 comments so far

  1. Clusty the Cloud on

    The Network is the Computer
    was…is…always will be
    it happened the moment it was plugged in

    maybe now in 2006
    Google is the Network is the Computer or simply
    Google is Go

  2. Liam @ Web 2.5 Blog on

    Prior attempts include X Terminals, Java applets (see Marimba & AppStream), and web 1.0 ASPs (see WebOS & Desktop.com). The market doesn’t like this model, and its Ajax incarnation, which can be called ASP 1.1, has no more legs than its predecessors.

    It’s not because MS Office or OpenOffice are so terrific; it’s the privacy and ownership people sense when using a personal computer. See my blog for more on bringing the benefits of the web into everyday computing without forcing the user online…

  3. Brad on

    Google is better positioned than Microsoft in this space? What’s your reasoning?

  4. Martin Wells on

    There’s a bunch of stuff which points to google being better positioned (audience, product suite, search as a driver) but the central one is they are the only real contender other than Microsoft.

    The problem Microsoft has is the same one you see with VOIP and carriers, they have to be careful to not cannibalise their own market. Microsoft will never offer a zero-install office application that is operating system independant. If this type of application platform takes off the most they’ll do is counter with an online office version with limited functionality, on a subscription basis, and most likely it’ll be tied to Windows. Google will do it for free and make it multiplatform. Along with their infrastruture, audience, complimentary services (gmail, gdrive, adwords, blogger, payments, earth, local, etc) they are better positioned and less shackled.


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