Software As a Service and Service With A Smile

More and more traditional desktop applications are finding ways of living on the web via the Web 2.0 hype. (Please bear in mind that I’m going with the flow of people who are classifying the next generation of web applications with this sometimes publicly scorned misnomer). What this means is that software that you normally have to purchase from a retail store contained in a shrink-wrapped box or download an installer file from a website can now be hosted by the developer on a web page. I suppose this is good and bad for a few reasons:

The Good

  • Less space taken up on your personal computer’s storage space
  • Easily accessible from any computer terminal
  • Platform independence once and for all (no more Mac, Linux, or MS Windows only apps)
  • Others

The Bad

  • Gotta have a web connection (if you are stuck somewhere without connectivity your work is unaccessible)
  • There are still legitimate computer applications that require high-end, intensive, and responsive processing (therefore we won’t be seeing them online soon)
  • Your important stuff and potentially personal info is on someone else’s computer, not yours (security)
  • And others

There are a couple of important implications for education here which many others in the academic community have already disseminated:

  • Many of these applications are very low cost if not FREE, therefore they become more accessible to students and academic institutions that have budget considerations
  • Web 2.0 apps tend to build collaboration, community focused participation, and social networking into their framework and design. These types of activities in education can potentially build social skills in the individuals who could gain experience for the workplace by working in teams

The List

Given this information, here are some of the important desktop apps that have moved online that are already having an impact on education:

Among these desktop apps are the many other web 2.0 apps that tend to make using the web fun. (They tend to suck up valuable time and network resources but students love these!):

  • Myspace
  • Youtube
  • Flickr
  • Many others…there are just too many to mention here. They are all over the place.

I suppose to finish off the post with the reason for the title…many of these applications have caught on because the designers of these media types have capitalized on behaviors that make computer-user interaction work better. If anyone has used a desktop word processor and it’s taken them weeks to discover how to do everyday tasks, you may be yearning for more of an appliance-like experience such as opening your refrigerator to find the butter or opening a can of peaches with an electric or manual can-opener. People have been doing that for years now, and someday that’s the way computers for the masses need to function…like a kitchen appliance. Many companies have seen that their desktop applications moving to the web has become an opportunity to give their usage a good shakedown to see what people are doing with their software. Since they have moved to the web, this has become their opportunity to appeal to a much wider audience…

In my opinion this is now an opportunity and obligation for traditional software companies to appeal to the masses in a way never thought before. Rather than offering their software, they are now offering their services. Just like any customer would come back to a business that had friendly customer service, a recluse web user will log onto a web 2.0-ish site because they had a good experience and the thing or task they were trying to accomplish just worked. There really is something psychological about interacting with someone or something that welcomed you with a smile or a good experience.

Of recent reading, one of the biggest and bloatiest (but well-known by name and in the trade) shrink-wrapped software packages is also due to become an online service…Photoshop. Read here to catch up on this news:

One Comment

  1. Shelley Rodrigo says:

    Ahhh…but Jeff, the one thing I’m loving about these is that my students who do not own their own computers, or do not want to pay for MS Office, can now use something like Think Free ( for word processing, spreadsheet, and presentations (yes…only Power Point-ish application).

    I do appreciate your perspective on all this “stuff”! I know I like using it and continue to work them into my classes; however, I need to know what you’all who support my craziness feel about it.

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