As I wrote before, the distinction between a desktop application and a web application has become a fuzzy blur, and it is widening too. Desktop applications, traditionally belonging to the offline zone, go online to, for example, allowing you to collaborate on documents with your right shore colleagues. But that is only a small shift compared to the one made by Web applications. Their UIs have become indistinguishable from desktop applications, and web applications have crossed over to the offline zone by allowing you to use them while you are offline.
The web application has become as rich and powerful as the desktop application. It could do anything a desktop application could. Okay, there’s the security sandbox (a fence around the application that protects your privacy) that a web application cannot get beyond, but that is actually a good thing. And the real beauty of the web application is that it does not need installation and you always have the latest version. So, deployment cost is negligible. Also, backups are something you (the user) no longer need to worry about, because all your documents are stored online.
Wait a minute? Are we back at the thin client versus fat client discussion again? I guess we are. The yo-yo-ing between fat and thin seems to be a perpetual thing. Currently, the trend is to go thin again (quite literally). HP, Dell and Asus have created cute little mini laptops that are cheap, lightweight and thinly equipped (e.g. solid state drives ). Each of these cuties run a tiny linux distro (Ubuntu, Xandros, …) and smartly use software that has never been physically installed on it, such as Google Documents.
Allright, Dell’s mini also comes in Microsoft flavour for only $50 more than the Linux flavour (as is the case with Asus’ Eee PC), but that is besides the point I am trying to make. My point is that these minis are ideal vessels for providing Software as a Service (one of the innovation building blocks identified in our TechnoVision). And since these awesome devices are low-cost by design (aimed at developing countries), SaaS has become within reach of the masses.
Why don’t we take this one step further and approach SaaS as we do telecommunication. I don’t want to pay for the device but for the service. Like cell phones these mini laptops should come free with the software service plan you buy from the software provider of your choice. Dell has already taken steps in that direction by partnering with Box.Net. So, go ahead vendors of mini laptops (HP, Dell, Asus and the likes), team up with ISPs and SaaS providers such as Google, Adobe or Microsoft and make this reality.
To conclude, SaaS has changed the way in which software is being marketed, and PCs can be made thinner because of it. Finally, have a look at the SaaS Plaza (it features a really crazy video that promotes SaaS).