Monday, November 13, 2006

The Irrelevant Operating System

I read with with great interest the other day that Windows is dead, Mac OS is irrelevant and Linux doesn't matter.

Or they are if you believe all the hype over "Web 2.0" and "social" applications. The argument goes something like this: As more and more applications leverage technologies like AJAX and become more robust and easier to use, the browser is becoming the new operating system.

The prophets have decreed that the future will be the utopia of "lightweight" computing. No more nasty individual PC's with either own data stores that don't get backed up. No more viruses, worms and spyware (because the user won't be able to download anything - and "won't need to").

We'll "get to" have devices that allow an "always on" Internet connection, will store all of our preferences and actual software on a central server (so we "get to" use any computer anywhere and still have all of our files & applications), and all the "software" we'll ever need will be delivered inside a web browser.

Sure, and mokeys might fly out of my ass.

These Web 2.0 sites - are all basically the same: they all enable "communities" to share (or hide) their content and applications, have some kind of "collaboration" tool set and have varying degrees of AJAX in their interface.

On the web. With an Internet connection. In a browser.

I don't know about your experience - but most of the browser applications I've used just simply suck. There are a couple of laser-focused applications that do a good job (Zimbra for email, Google Maps, etc.) - but most of the applications are nothing more than a "Hello World" demo that don't even provide the functionality of the most basic offline applications.

Let's pretend that applications get better. Let's even pretend they were as robust as "regular" applications. What about offline editing? What about plane travel productivity? What about power and/or service outages? What about clever virus writers taking down a whole data center with hundreds (or thousands or millions) of people's data on it?

To a certain degree I agree that Windows does suck, the Mac is "cute" and Linux is an OS only a geek could love. There are times I would trade any of my computers for a stick of gum. BUT, a 100% web browser application world?

I'd rather use paper and pen.

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