Thursday, April 17, 2008

My case against the "WebTop"

Today's post is the result of my good friend Wil attempting to explain why the WebTop is a desirable evolution of the PC.

Wil Asked:
Why don’t you like the web-top?

Actually taking a step back and defining what I think a “web-top” is:
  • Web-based email and calendaring (see gmail, google calendar)
  • Web-based document authoring (see gdocs, zoho, thinkfree, microsoft office live)
  • Web-based chat (gchat)
  • Whatever OS you want to be on.
  • Whatever hardware platform you want to be on, mobile or not.
Is this what you hate?

Here is my reply:
I agree with your definition of a web-top.  This is what I hate because the user-interface & experience is being limited to the browser. 
The limited browser user experience sucked so Microsoft created ActiveX and the world cried, Sun created Java and the world was just happy that it wasn't Microsoft, Adobe/Macromedia created Flash and the world cheered. Now AJAX is all the rage (because nobody could accept that DHTML came out of Redmond) and Google Gears and Adobe AIR are rushing in to fill the off-line void.
In the web-top model, the advancements in hardware capabilities are being ignored.  Hardware is what provides the human interfaces, be it Aero, Aqua or Flash as well as pens, cameras and gesturing.  Everything Intel is doing with Atom is trying to bring more hardware capabilities to more devices, in a smaller form factor at a lower cost-point will be the equivalent of flying cargo in the 1st class seats of a 747 if all it needs to provide is a browser.
Apple has proven that the human experience matters above all. Google has proven that performance & simplicity are important at a service layer.  Parallels Coherence Mode, VMWare Fusion's Unity and MetaVNC all point to the value of having a 'Mashup Desktop' where local native, local virtual and remote presentation applications can coexist peacefully on a common canvas.
I don't want a web-top, but I want to manage the full stack of PC capabilities in an optimum user experience as simply as I can change the pages/style-sheet of a web-page.  I want web-services to be the backend of my virtualized PC.  I want heavy lifting to be done by the cloud, mass storage in the cloud, etc. -- A very smart person told me that Bindings are cheap in the virtual world, it's when you bind the virtual to the physical that things get expensive. Would that make a webtop in your definition cheaper ? - Yes, it would; but I seriously feel it would be at the cost of the experience-- I want my bindings to be orchestrated by the network - but actually done on my device, not on a web-page.

Wil did a nice job re-articulating what it is he values, but I'm most interested in hearing from you - Wanna WebTop ?

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