Is it Time For the “Web OS”? v

Table of Contents

  1. Summary


We’re all spending more time working from different locations on multiple devices (desktop, laptop and smartphone), and keeping all of our data in sync and accessible anytime, anywhere is becoming more important.

Services like Apple’s MobileMe help synchronize data between devices, but that’s no good if some of your equipment isn’t compatible with the service. Cloud-based services, like Google Docs, Gmail, Salesforce and Zoho help keep our stuff in places that we can get to from anywhere, but that often requires having accounts with lots of different services, and often the data isn’t easily ported between apps. In other words, most of us have to jump through hoops to keep our data in sync.

Wouldn’t it be neat to be able to move your entire desktop, with all your apps and data, into the cloud? A desktop that you could access from any device with a web browser would mean that syncing data between devices wouldn’t be a problem. You could leave your office with a text document midway though editing, an incomplete spreadsheet and a half-written email on your desktop, then hit the road, flip open your laptop and access the exact same set of documents — just as you left them.

Current Web OS Options

There are a few services available that already offer this very functionality, commonly called “Web OSes” (although, technically, they’re nothing like an operating system). iCloud (pictured here) and Glide OS, among others, provide cloud-based storage and and a browser-based desktop, including applications. While they go about things slightly differently (Glide uses Flash, while iCloud uses HTML, JavaScript and XML), both have a familiar-looking desktop interface and offer a full suite of desktop software applications that mimic the apps most users have installed on their machines (email, calendar, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, instant messenger, calculator, etc.).

These services are impressive from a technical standpoint, but although they’ve been around for quite some time now, they’ve never really taken off. In part, that’s because these services try to exactly reproduce the modern desktop experience in the browser, both in terms of user interface and functionality offered.

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