Desktop Apps, reborn as hybrids

Like a cat with nine lives, the desktop once again manages to survive and extend its life. And while most of us (including yours truly) have heralded the coming wave of web-applications, some nagging practical matters are keeping the future at bay.

The biggest problem, of course is the availability of ubiquitous broadband, without which even the smartest web application is as bright as Paris Hilton. As long as Moore’s Law helps keep Silicon Valley churning out ever-faster processors and the storage capacities of disk drives keep rising (along with falling prices) the edge client (translation: the desktop) will always be around.

The recent flurry of news surrounding hybrid web applications is a tactical retreat of sorts for Web apps, and realization that what is needed is a more pragmatic approach, thanks to the connectivity conundrum.

What is astonishing is the confluence of announcements and collective realization about the realities of today. The recent launches of Adobe Apollo and Yahoo Widgets 4, and Joyent’s SlingShot along with the upcoming Firefox 3 are signs that the offline availability of web applications (and the data they carry) is going to remain critical for near foreseeable future. No wonder, Microsoft’s new mantra is Software+Service, not software as a service.

Take Zimbra, an email company that plotted to replace Microsoft Outlook with an Ajax-based web client as an example. The company just announced the Zimbra Desktop. Though still in alpha stage, the desktop client mimics Zimbra’s web client, and syncs to the server whenever it can find a live connection.

Zimbra is not the only one that has realized that many of us want our emails while sitting in a plane, or where Wi-Fi connections are not as commonplace as the Starbucks logo might suggest.

Even Salesforce.com has an offline edition of its offerings. Some independent developers are attempting to build offline versions of GMail and some of 37Signals’ web applications.

The good news is that it is not that difficult to turn web applications into hybrids, as explained by Joyent CEO David Young, who demoed Slingshot late last week.

And for Google guys – well they can now take their sweet time and get those web apps right!


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