Wave of the middle-future: moving online AND back offline

March 26, 2007

In two blog posts (“Moving online” and “Moving online II“) and then on a separate page (“Doing everything online“), I detailed how the computer programs we use on a day-to-day basis are becoming a part of the Internet via your favorite Internet browser instead of being a separate program on the computer. For example, word-processing and spreadsheets can now be done on-line via Zoho, Google Docs, and a couple other web services. Let’s call those online services “apps”.That’s the wave for the near-future. Looking a bit further – let’s say in the middle-future (now I’m starting to sound like a Lord of the Rings or a Dark Tower novelist!) – these apps will move back onto your computer on a part-time basis. You’d still be able to use these apps via your Internet browser, but you wouldn’t need to be connected to the Internet to do so. Handy for people with dial-up access or using laptops on the road outside of wifi zones (altho cell phone service hooked up to laptops are approaching broadband speed (high-speed) lately).

It would soon be possible to “detach” these apps so that they’d be on your computer separate from (but still sorta part of) your Internet browser. You can see that nowadays as little “widgets” that sit on your desktop showing you little snippets of the Internet – a webcam here, weather info there, blog feeds up there, a nice clock down there. These widgets are growing in sophistication, and pretty soon you’d be able to do word-processing via something much like a widget when off-line (or even when still on-line).

Apollo logoWhat will make all these possible? Adobe’s Apollo platform (links to a Techcrunch blog post), for starters, and surely similar platforms soon. Apollo was very recently released in “alpha” form – meaning even earlier than general public (beta) testing – and many errors may surface. Apollo allows web services to set up separate modules / apps onto your desktop which can use data / info on your computer instead of via the Internet. It’s like Flash but on steroids. (Flash — also by Macromedia / Adobe – is responsible for lots of the nifty animation and stuff you see on the Internet, including the software behind Youtube videos.)

Yourminis logoYourminis, a personalized home page which I recently wrote about, is the first that I know of to use the new Apollo technology. Yourminis allows you to set up widgets on your homepage on the Internet, and detach them onto your computer desktop as well. You’d have to have the Apollo platform installed on your computer first, tho – and if you’re not a saavy computer user, I suggest you wait till Apollo is out in beta – or even a bit longer till its official release.

Firefox 3, which has not yet been released, will also allow off-line functionality. Zimbra recently announced that it is now designed for off-line use. Zimbra is a productivity suite which includes emails, calendars, appointment book, etc and is for individual or enterprise (businesses / organization) users.

My prediction still stands: we would rely less and less on programs that we purchase and install onto our computer (and have to update on our own). Instead, we will increasingly use apps via our Internet browser or which can be detached and used on your computer. These apps will update themselves, and can be easily re-loaded / refreshed if something goes awry. Many of these services will be free at first, and then will either still be free but supported by ads, or cost a relatively small regular fee to use without ads.

And my final words?

Happy app’ing!

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