In a recent discussion with a fellow blogger on Writely, an online word processor, I felt that some things are being taken for granted, or some assumptions are being made when assuming that an online word processor can completely replace its desktop counterpart.
Here are some of my thoughts regarding this:
- We are assuming availability of a good and continuous Internet connection when we are trying to replace a desktop word processor with an online one. A good Internet connection is still expensive, especially when at lot of places the connection is limited by download size and/or bandwidth.
- Writing documents is a everyday and a common activity, it should not be restricted by adding a dependency to an Internet connection.
- A lot of documents in businesses are discussed, reviewed and modified. This requires a good version control system so that the intermediate versions can be saved and rolledback to. Nowadays, tracking changes and version control support is offered by offline office suites. Although Writely supports this, much better support is lent by corporate intranets and document routing/sharing systems.
- Writely is made for collaboration and sharing. Security will still be a concern when confidential documents are written. And quite a lot of them are written in the business world.
- There are some features that not well supoprted at Writely, e.g., templates, which are used by users for different documents. One more feature missing is that Writely, today, is just a Word processor. When writing documents, references to other types of documents like presentations, spreadsheets, drawings is a common thing.
- Individuals get easy access to Microsoft Works/Microsoft Office/OpenOffice/KOffice/NeoOffice and multitude of other office suites when desktops/laptops are bought. Document preparation systems like LaTeX are also easily available.
Having said this, Writely does offer value. In my opinion, its value is more in collaboration and sharing rather than the word processing. Ability to subscribe to the same document will definitely help people who are always on the move. Its support to OpenDocument format and easy conversion to multiple formats is commendable. That is why I think it is an excellent supplement to the desktop office suite, but not a replacement.
On more thought, this can be extended and applied to the popular concept of Web 2.0. Is Web 2.0 trying to push the desktop out? Or is it expected to? I had registered my doubts about similarities in dumb terminals and thin-clients. This would mean that chip makers should now avoid making better processors for individual machines, as there can be vanilla machines requiring lower resources with everything else on the Internet. Along with this the operating systems makers should also provide a raw version, as there are even web based desktop systems. Why is there still so much interest in Microsoft Windows Vista getting delayed or the recent developments in desktop managers like KDE and GNOME?
There is some talk about the upcoming Bubbles (via GigaOM) project which is a bridge between web and desktop. I my opinion attempt should be to make web an extension of the desktops, that will give optimum benefits.
Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.