Alfredo Padillia over at The Apple Blog have begun a discussion around whether or not web based software will lead him away from a Mac. I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few months and I used to think the same thing. Now I’m not so sure.
Cloud computing, the idea of running all of your applications on the web, sounds like a great concept. The author’s notion of cloud computing is that all of the applications he uses are browser based. His examples are GMail, Google Reader, Remember The Milk, etc. While these applications are indeed running “in the cloud” I think it’s the wrong way to look at things.
The problem with web applications is not that they aren’t powerful enough to get the job done, it’s that they don’t operate efficiently together. I tried using the Google suite of applications. They are nice, but god forbid if you want to integrate them into anything else. I tried for months to come up with a solution for synchronizing my Google Address Book, GMail and GCal to my iPhone. There are some hacks to do it but in the end, I settled on using Spanning Sync with Address Book and iCal to keep my Mac client apps in sync and iTunes to sync those to my iPhone. Another great example is bookmarks. If I need to go to a specific website, am I going to go the the delicious website first or will I use the delicious plugin for Firefox. The plugin has a much tighter integration.
Where cloud computing shines is the idea of a ubiqitous data store. I like that I can drop ont a friends PC and in a pinch, check my calendar, or email. It doesn’t mean I still miss the convienience of interoperability between these applications. Standards based data formats will give me the best of both worlds and when we get there, cloud computing my finally get some legs.