Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

Will the Web Really Win?

Haven’t we heard all of this before? I mean about how thin clients will take over the world and relegate the desktop and desktop applications to the past?

I often disagree with Matt Asay’s views (which makes his blog fun to read, if only for the rush of righteous indignation I tend to feel after reading it). But to argue that Google Docs, Zoho et al. are going to replace desktop apps is just plain crazy.

Who wants all their documents stored on someone else’s server where they could be snooped on (or even sold) by wayward systems or database administrators and where Big Government is much more likely to come up with a justification as to why it should be allowed to poke its nose into them at will. No thanks, I think I’ll pass.

Even if a substantial proportion of the general public decided that hosted web apps were the way to go, I can’t see any sane CEO or MD agreeing to their company going down that route. And most of the money in the office suite market is in corporate sales, not least because of widespread piracy by home users.

The only way out of that problem is selling e.g. a Google Docs “appliance”. And once you start going down that route, I don’t really see many advantages over buying a conventional desktop office suite. Sure, with an appliance you get single-point upgrades (and single point of failure too, unlike a desktop suite). Except that (a) there are already tools to manage desktop applications across multiple machines, and (b) as your company grows, you start needing more and more of these appliances, which eventually need to be distributed between your offices so that users get an acceptable response time. Pretty soon you have all the same problems you had before, but now you have this special box that you can’t easily maintain yourself (even if it is commodity kit, fiddling with it is likely to void any warranty or maintenance contracts you may have).

No, sorry Matt, I just don’t buy it.

My two cents: desktop software is here to stay.