Monday, December 12, 2005

NYTimes: Can This Man Reprogram Microsoft?

Steve Lohr piles onto The Network Is The Computer bandwagon, describing Ray Ozzie's new role. Here's the note I sent him in reply:

The sudden strength of Google and successful IPO of salesforce.com have yanked attention away from lessons learned by dozens of ASPs after the bubble burst: that there are hard reasons why users want to control their own data and apps.

First, individuals reflexively dislike the idea of others owning their data, even if access is free. Next, electricity is reliable and ubiquitous, otherwise we couldn't depend on PCs. Internet access is some decades from being as prevalent as AC, especially because much of it will be wireless, unlike electricity. The internet isn't really "always-on".

Complex enterprise apps like CRM & ERP benefit from having an "on-demand" service offering so customers can get started without investing huge sums before seeing returns. Eventually, many of those customers will choose to move such systems in-house, if they find them to offer competitive advantage.

Personal and workgroup apps aren't complex or expensive to set up. Laptops or flash drives can be "always-on-you". The hidden reason why people wish for web-based personal apps is the web's info-model: multi-format pages interlinked to form sites. It's a much better way to organize and present data than folders-with-files-edited-by-apps.

You don't have to hit an internet server with a browser to use the web info-model. You can carry a web server with you. The real disruption coming in this decade is "distributed web 2.0", in which user mobile devices become web servers.

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