InfoWorld has posted an article on the state of online applications as replacements for desktop applications. Can Web-based applications outwit, outplay, outlast the desktop? It is an interesting read and approaches this topic pretty much strictly from the angle of how well the various web-based offerings compare with MS Office in allowing the writer to get his work done. Overall? After a week of web-only applications, his conclusion is not particularly well. The author indicates right up front, however, that your mileage may vary. It all depends on what you need.
While the capabilities of these applications is, almost by definition, in a constant state of flux and, one hopes, of improvement, they are constrained in ways other than just the unreliable state of Internet connectivity. Case in point on that, by the way: our ISP had problems yesterday that left a number of sites completely unreachable while others were agonizingly slow to load. This lasted pretty much all day. If we depended on a web based application for our work and it was at one of those sites we could have chalked the entire day up as a productivity loss.
His final lines supports my opinion about web-based applications in general.
Anyway, a quote from the end of the article:
Was the experience worth it? Definitely. Are the applications worth the trouble? Mostly not. Zoho is definitely the standout in the group. It’s the only one that not only offers most of the apps I need but also seems to have a clear vision of where it’s going. And it’s free. ThinkFree and gOffice are similar, but neither has the breadth of apps, features, or collaboration that Zoho does.
The rest seem to be offering these apps simply because they can. Google’s Writely and Spreadsheets are impressive examples of Web 2.0 technology, but neither can compete with a desktop app on its own. And neither takes enough advantage of the Web’s particular technologies as yet.
Plus, all these applications are hampered by their very foundations: the Web. Without a Web connection, you can’t use these applications. With a spotty Web connection (such as the one at Bryant Park), you’re dead. Locally installed applications are simply more reliable and feature-rich. No big surprise there.