What better way to spend your time at 2:00 in the morning than looking at Scoble's feed blog? (Don't answer that) While doing so tonight I came across a post by Nick Bradbury about why there has been a move to the web application despite a lot of reasons for sticking with desktop applications. And Nick nails it:
However, if you get away from techie circles and speak with mainstream users, you'll find that many of them don't care about the ease of accessing their data. They only need to access their data from one location, so it makes no difference to them whether they can get their email at Starbucks. In fact, some of them don't even like the idea of their data being "out there somewhere."
Yet they're still moving to the Web.
Why is this? There are many reasons, but fear is a big one. Downloading and installing software is scary.
The install process is counter-intuitive and scary. The worst offenders require you to restart your computer and leave traces of themselves all over your computer to the point that most techies do a clean, fresh, operating system reinstall once a year. How did it get to this point? Security is a big issue, and rightly so. But installing desktop software has become such a pain that people have decided giving their data to Google is preferable to navigating the minefield of spyware and registry changes.
When I talk about Rich Internet Applications providing a better experience, that's as much in the user interface as it is the installation. I've been able to play with Apollo and I can tell you that installing Apollo apps is only slightly more difficult than chewing gum while walking. Apollo applications leave a small footprint, take no time at all to install and require very little user interaction. You click the button and go - almost like a web application.
If we're going to make people realize that the desktop still holds a lot of promise and that breaking out of the browser is still the best way to interact with data then we need to make the install as easy as web applications are. It's possible, and we've come a long way, but it should be on the forefront of every engineering team's mind.