Richard MacManus on Readwriteweb has written an article on “WebOS and Webified Desktop Apps”. More and more applications these days are being webified - meaning "made to operate on the Web using a browser or made to function in a similar manner." This is because the Internet is capable of significantly augmenting human interaction, with its decentralized system of ubiquitous data accessibility.
WebOS, the remote desktop: “We've already seen a wealth of desktop-replicated web applications in the web 2.0 space - office suites, calenders, task management. A webtop (derived from 'desktop') pushes that replication to its limit. Also known as a WebOS, it is basically a virtual desktop on the web. It is a simple, less bloated, less featured and remotely accessible operating environment that runs in a browser. It delivers a rich desktop-like experience, coupled with various built-in applications.”
WebOS is a great idea, but in my opinion it has questionable value. It can be fun, exciting, entertaining and even convenient for some - but being as efficient, flexible and productive as a desktop is practically impossible. The majority of these applications are almost essentially superfluous, emphasizing novelty over substance.
Downsides of a WebOS
- Works at the mercy of the network and the server load.
- While the many enabling capabilities of network-based storage architectures are of substantial value - issues of authentication, access control, and security/privacy of the stored data remain. Are you going to let someone else handle your data? Would you trust a startup to protect your critical data? [Ed: for an interesting side argument, see this discussion of IBM's SoulPad from a year ago]
- The privacy, control, reliability and performance issues prevent the WebOS from being an alternative to the ever-more-affordable and easy-to-use desktop.
- WebOS requires a fast and reliable (if not flawless) connection to work correctly.
- Inability to operate peripheral devices.
- Web applications rely on open source infrastructure and an array of technologies and formats - and these are constantly changing, often with no regard for being backwards compatible.