TO SERVE OR NOT TO SERVE...
I've been a Bloglines user for over a year now (recently bought by Ask Jeeves), and have been generally happy with the experience of a web based blog reading service. A new udpate by Onfolio, of Onfolio 2.0, caught my eye yesterday and so I downloaded the application after having tried version 1.0 over a year ago. It's got great new features, including the ability to save entire web sites, organize and annotate comments on things found on the web, and the ability to run To-Do lists with the application.
However, I wish there were a web-based version of this product, or at the very least the ability to share and sync my Onfolio with other Onfolio on secondary PCs. I tend to do my work across multiple desktops and laptops (both windows and Mac), so I tend to be partial to apps that are stored on the web. This way I can access the same stuff, with the latest updates, off any machine that I'm on.
In general, this means I'm getting more averse to applications that require me to store all my data on one machine and make it difficult to share it on other machines. This increasingly is a problem that most application vendors need to be more mindful about.
I believe the most successful application vendors will be ones that either have web based apps (Google Mail is a terrific recent example), or will make it easier for their users to share content created with their apps across multiple machines.
This also has implications on how applications are priced. Currently, the mentality of most app vendors is to charge for every copy of an application downloaded and/or installed on every machine. Again, I believe the smarter way might be to allow multiple downloads on multiple machines, but charge for only one copy, AS LONG AS ONLY ONE APP INSTANCE IS BEING USED at any one time.
I believe Apple has an interesting opportunity here, especially with their .Mac service. If they can introduce a web-based iLife that allows the creation and reading of word processing documents today (and maybe spreadsheet documents down the road), that could then be edited with full features on a Mac (mini, powerbook or otherwise), it could allow them to pull a whole host users into the Mac universe.
Obviously Google, and Yahoo! have the same opportunity...Bill Burnham, recently had a terrific overview post on the blogging software universe, with specific focus on Google and Yahoo!'s efforts. Google already takes this approach with its applications, GMail, Blogger, Picasa, Hello, Google Maps et al, using cutting edge web programming. Jon Udell sheds more light on Google Maps in particular. Yahoo! generally has gone more with tried and true, less flashy approaches, but both have contributed to the richness of server based consumer apps available on the web at a massive scale. We've come so far in terms of going from client based apps to server based apps, but we've got so much more cool stuff to look forward to...