The biggest thing this week in the world of Web software has been offline access, but it remains to be seen whether this is a real game changer or just a must-have addition that closes gaps with desktop software.
At this week's Mix conference in Las Vegas the rich internet application announcements are fast and furious. But most efforts seem to be coalescing around offline access, which keeps Web apps useful even when there's no connectivity.
For rich Internet applications (see Ryan Stewart's ongoing coverage) to be true desktop software replacements offline access is a must. What's unclear to me is whether offline access is that much of a game changer. In many respects, offline access merely makes Webtop applications the equal to desktop software. For instance, I use Outlook when I'm connected and when I'm not. Previously, Webtop applications only worked with a connection. Now both desktop and Webtop applications work offline and online. What's the big deal?
To be sure offline access may be a great equalizer and it's certainly handy. But this revolution will need better applications to get users--the masses not just the early adopters--to think Webtop software is enough to chuck their familiar programs. We need to think about what the Webtop can do better than desktop applications aside from taking up less disk space.
At this stage, offline access announcements are welcome, but on the software evolution scale these steps are small. In the future, offline access won't be a selling point at all. And it may be irrelevant if we get to the point where an Internet connection is always available.