Webtop, RIA, and "Webified"

There were some interesting discussions late last week regarding Rich Internet Applications (RIA), a new term called “webified”, and the webtop. If you recall, I’ve been doing a series on the webtop and how I disagree with it being called a WebOS (thus far, I’ve pointed to Bubbles and SimTimer as examples of what I see as webtop applications).

It seems I’m not the only person who believes the future of computing is a model where the power of the desktop is combined with that of the remote web. In particular, Ebrahim Ezzy had a guest post on Read Write / Web, where he wrote:

I rely on various web applications to create documents, presentations, spreadsheets; share images, videos, data; manage and organize tasks, projects and life. But I still believe the future of computing isn’t entirely web-based. It’s necessary to have the desktop as the pivotal point, because the power of the desktop is important for a rich user experience – and will be, for a very long time to come.

Ebrahim uses the word “webified” to describe this model – which I think is confusing. With words like podcast, RSS, wikis, I think “webtop” – the web+desktop – makes a whole lot more sense and could gain better adoption. But I still agree with his point. The desktop is still going to remain a key part of the equation, at least in the immediate future.

Fellow Penn alumn Ryan Stewart added his 2.0 cents in a retort on his ZDnet blog. The crux of his argument:

The best RIAs provide a layer of abstraction over both the web and the desktop. The Webified desktop application, as Ebrahim uses the term, implys installation, which is an old, antiquated model for software delivery. Why should we make people go through the trouble of installing a music store or blogging software if it doesn’t end up getting them anything extra?

Ryan goes on to make a strong case against installing anything other than a runtime environment on the client side, making reference to “DLL hell” and how apps can be served to the desktop via a central server.

I like Ryan’s vision, where you don’t have to really bother users that much and can push software updates via the web but I’m still seeing the desktop as having the crucial role I’ve described to this point. His model would bring computers back to being “dumb terminals”. With all the investment made into the OS, processing power, and client side computing over the last decade, I just don’t see this model flushing out completely…yet.

Lots more on the subject, including a podcast from Om Malik and Niall Kennedy.