Xcerion’s iCloud, a free “web OS” that we’ve covered previously, launches into public beta today with some interesting collaboration features, although limited cross-browser support will be off-putting for many.
iCloud is an impressive web application. It’s an OS-like desktop, complete with storage space and a Microsoft Office-like application suite, that runs in a browser that you can access from anywhere. It’s a very slick-looking app and functions very well. Applications run snappily, and everything operates as you would expect based on using your desktop OS.
According to Xcerion, iCloud’s primary market is Internet cafe users, but with this release the company has introduced some interesting collaboration features that could be useful for web workers, particularly if you find yourself using more than one machine. You can share calendars and to-do items with teammates and, thanks to built-in social networking features, see when your colleagues are online and chat with them. Most impressive is the ability to simultaneously collaborate on a single shared document, with multiple people making edits.
iCloud’s XML backend is clever, and because the applications execute locally on your machine rather than on a remote server, they appear much more responsive than other “web OS” offerings that we’ve seen before.
Xcerion envisions a future in which you can access your iCloud desktop from anywhere, including mobile devices. The idea of completely virtualized applications is very appealing: I would love to be able to leave my documents, web pages, etc. open on a virtual desktop and be able to return to them later from any device, anywhere. Unfortunately, though, that vision doesn’t match the current reality.
Disappointingly, iCloud is only completely supported in Internet Explorer. Firefox support is in “early alpha” and works OK in my tests, but the company says that you shouldn’t rely on it, and as of yet, other browsers are totally unsupported. For that reason I (and I suspect many of you) won’t be taking up iCloud just yet.
What do you think of the idea of a “web OS”?