There was a post yesterday by Randall Kennedy entitled “Streaming Office: Death knell for Google Apps?http://blogs.zoho.com/in-the-news/streaming-office-vs-true-web-apps/” in which he posited that Microsoft’s new effort to make Office available as a service will obviate the need and opportunity for on-line apps, a category that obviously includes Buzzword.
In short order, there was a response and rebuttal on the Zoho blog, entitled Streaming Office vs True Web Apps, which does an excellent job in pointing out some of the limitations of the Microsoft approach (the blog omitted one key point: the MS solution works only on Windows).
The Zoho response also pointed out the misplaced assumption that there are functional limitations to web apps. Certainly Buzzword has dispelled that assumption – built in the Flash platform, Buzzword has a robust cross-platform run-time environment that will support all our functionality ambitions.
But there’s something more fundamentally misguided about claims of Streaming Office’s inevitable victory over online applications. Contrasting Office with emergent web apps is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Simply by being hosted online, this new wave of applications represent an evolutionary step beyond desktop-centric computing. Moving a writing environment to the connected environment has created a different species, sort of a gills-to-lungs process, though the characteristics of the new species are still being fleshed out (so to speak).
Or, to change the metaphor, productivity applications’ move to the web is a Copernican shift: when writing online, content (the document) is at the center of the process, and collaborators orient to that single reference point. In the old model, as mentioned in previous posts, old and revised document versions revolved around an author like so much space debris.
Delivering web apps is not about the delivery mechanism, per se. It’s about changing the game, migrating to a new, inter-connected computing platform. The functionality of web apps will improve inexorably, but as long as Microsoft is committed to Windows-on-the-client, it won’t be able to make this evolutionary shift.