I see two real trends in web-based technology emerging. The first is cloud computing, which is the movement of all computing to the web. What this means, in economic and practical terms, is a trend away from software packages such as Microsoft Office and toward web-based applications such as Google Docs. For now, these cloud applications are a little clunky–not quite as refined and sophisticated as their licensed counterparts.
The other trend is moving in the opposite direction: apps for everything. A few days ago, I visited Best Buy to play around with the new iPad. This was my version of a birthday present. Instead of the actual iPad, I get a trip to Best Buy to window shop. The demo iPads had all kinds of sexy apps already plugged in, including a Facebook app, a Google Maps GPS app, and a really cool iBooks app that makes me want to rethink my position on hand-held readers. Many of the apps were free from the Apple store.
The idea here, though, is interesting. Just when we thought we were getting away from software–at least software in the conventional sense–smart phones and the iPad are creating an entirely new market for smaller, cheaper, and more portable applications. As sleek as these apps are–and as clunky as many cloud-based interfaces are–I can’t help but think that true cloud computing has probably seen its day.