Will 2014 be the Year of the Webtop?

Cloud Computing Going Forward

By now, everyone has heard about the cloud. For those who haven’t, the cloud, broadly defined, is the sum of all online real-estate, websites, databases, and applications that inhabit the web. Web 2.0, the current iteration of the World Wide Web, is rich with dynamic websites, tools, and storage spaces for users. The web has matured to the extent that web software is now nearly as powerful as the native software applications that live on the hard drive of your computer. In fact, Google’s Chromebook runs Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system that essentially lives on the web. In fact, most of its software programs run in the Chrome browser, cutting out the desktop entirely.

Where do we go from here?

The web-centric nature of Google’s products, such as Google Drive has spurred other innovations in web apps. Dropbox, Microsoft Web Apps, and Evernote are all online storage and document creation tools that share some similarities with Google Drive. Thera are also online web development environments, photo editing tools, communication tools (video chatting, online phone/text messaging suites), and games that are nearly as powerful as traditional software applications. As web standards continue to extend the capabilities of browsers and web programming languages, we can expect a new crop of web applications that match or surpass those that are downloaded and installed on the hard drive of your computer. So, what does all of this mean for the average user?

First, it means that large hard drives are becoming less relevant as online storage begins to gain popularity. Online “cloud” storage will keep your files safe in the event of a catastrophic hard drive or computer failure, and without the need for backing up files on an external hard drive. It also means that all of your files are available in a device-agnostic way. Next, it means that people can communicate and game within their browser, and with seamless software updates since their applications live on servers and are maintained by the software vendor. FInally, it means that people are increasingly able to do the things that they want to do within their favorite web browser.

Webtop, really?!

A lot of folks are very comfortable with their desktops. I want to make it clear that I am not of the opinion that traditional desktops are going anywhere. Instead, I would argue that people who do a lot of their work and/or play on the web will eventually want a desktop that they can access from any of their devices. There are already solutions in the works.

Here are a few webtop environments that are already available:

Here is my Chrome browser’s apps page, which is almost a webtop:


More about webtops

Hashem Zahran dives in a little deeper into some of the distinctions between web desktops and web operating systems, and lists a few more webtop options on his website. There are only a few scattered resources available about web desktops/webtops, especially considering that it is a concept that is only slowly garnering the awareness of the general computer user. Cnet has a slightly dated article from 2009 that explores the trouble that virtual desktops were having in finding a niche, but this was before the Chromebook and Google’s release of a new breed of enhanced, rich web applications that make working on the web, within a browser increasingly viable.

1 thought on “Will 2014 be the Year of the Webtop?

  1. Cloud computing is changing how we work. Six years ago, when I set up my business, I had a hefty outlay of capital for hardware and software suites that allowed me to serve the varied needs of my clients. And I didn’t have to just buy all those programs; I had to learn them and stay on top of upgrades and developments.

    Today, if I choose, I can find web-based platforms to do most tasks and I can send all my files to the cloud for storage and retrieval. Will I? No.

    Slavoj Zizek’s writes in The Guardian about the other side of the “the cloud,” the side we don’t often consider.

    “Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure ‘in the cloud’ that supports them…To manage a cloud there needs to be a monitoring system that controls its functioning, and this system is by definition hidden from users.

    “The more our experience is non-alienated, spontaneous, transparent, the more it is regulated by the invisible network controlled by state agencies and large private companies that follow their secret agendas…Once we choose to follow the path of state secrets, we sooner or later reach the fateful point at which the legal regulations prescribing what is secret become secret.”

    Maybe Zizek’s opinions skew to the extreme, but the issue of control is an important one for me. My clients pay me to deliver projects. If I miss a deadline because of something that happened in the cloud, something beyond both my reach and my control, the onus is still on me. You can have the cloud.

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