Browsing ahead

By MIKE MILIARD  |  December 26, 2007

Expect to see more operations such as these. And perhaps a reward-system scenario like the one Bill St. Arnaud, a director at CANARIE Inc., a Canadian Internet development organization, discusses on his blog, “where consumers are provided with free true high-speed Internet if they reduce their overall energy consumption.”

Laptop desktops
It’s too bad Bill Gates didn’t invent the Internet. It’s got to worry him just a smidgen to see software applications that have made him wealthy become untethered from the desktop and find their way into cyberspace.

Who needs Microsoft Word when you can use Zoho Writer, a Web-based word processor that lets you create documents online, save them there, and access them whenever you need them — and wherever you are?

Or consider YouOS, founded by “four geeks who met playing basketball,” which allows users to run a number of applications right out of a Web browser. “Create a document at an office computer, drive home, continue right from where you left off” or “instantly share music, documents, and more.” The program also offers access to a vast list of more than 700 new applications developed by users, be they “professional software engineers” or “high school–age programmers,” or both.

Other shared-application sites to consider include Desktop on Demand, which, in addition to meat-and-potatoes software, such as a word processor and media player, offers photo editing, desktop searching, and a download manager; and eyeOS, which has an attractive layout and offers such bonuses as a calculator, a chess game, and an RSS-feed reader.

Expect to see a lot more use of these virtual desktops, or “Webtops,” in the coming year. Sure, there are risks involved: since all data exists online, there’s the chance it could be accessed by nefarious parties. But similar risks exist with e-mail, e-commerce, and online banking, and we still use those. And Webtops’ ease and freedom of use could make them very popular — if enough people could get used to the idea.

Will such Web-based operating systems be replacing their hard-drive-bound predecessors anytime soon? Not likely. But their convenience and ubiquity make them valuable supplements to the old way of doing things. And Bill Gates will just have to learn to deal with it.

Google roolz!!!
Google’s omniscience and omnipresence have become inescapable. Their search-engine market-share is more than 50 percent, and will get only larger. Google Video playing second fiddle to YouTube? Just buy YouTube! Then there’s Gmail and Blogger and Feedburner and iGoogle and Google Books and Google Docs and Google Desktop and Google News and Google Finance and Google Groups and Google Checkout and Google Scholar and Google Talk and Google Base and Google Earth and Google Moon and Google Mars. It’s Google’s universe. We just live in it. And that will only become more apparent in 2008.

When the Boston edition of Google Maps’ Street View feature was unveiled a few weeks ago, I sat at my computer and zoomed in on a photograph of my condo, taking a virtual trip down my street, looking up at telephone poles and down at fire hydrants as I went. It was very cool. And very scary.

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