Om Malik is the latest to notice the increasing number of "hybrid" technologies that are bridging the desktop and the web. Mike Arrington of TechCrunch was the first to give a good rundown of the space and so I felt like it was a good time to reiterate why this is so important.
It isn't just about offline access, though that's a major driver. It's about building great experiences. The desktop just provides a lot more leeway in terms of capabilities and there is no reason to keep things stuck in the browser. To me, Rich Internet Applications combine the creative influences on the web and the richness of the desktop to create the ultimate hybrid applications. The fact that a lot of people are starting to take notice is great. If offline access is what gets them to drink, that's fine, but there is so much more out there.
The reason things are so exciting is that the development ecosystem is ripe for developers. The designer developer workflow is getting a lot of attention which is resulting in some great experiences. Injecting more design into software is only going to help adoption and help revolutionize usability and access. With hybrid solutions and the rich toolsets we have, we can finally take the design, creativity and innovation of the web and apply it to other parts of the software world. Regardless of the vendor or the technology you use, that's a great thing. And it's fun to watch it resonate with more and more people. Even if the impetus is a technical solution, I think they'll soon see the benefits to the whole picture.