The Desktop Is Dead. Long Live The Desktop.

Has anyone else noticed the retro trend we’re experiencing?

Remember when you would go to OfficeMax or CompUSA to buy your boxed (gasp) software? Racing home to pop in CD’s 1 – 4 to do a complete install? Maybe you remember as far back as Windows 95? 20 – 30 3.5″ floppy disks.

Them were the days.

Who buys software today? I haven’t bought a physical piece of distributed software in about 3 years. I lied, I bought the Max OS Snow Leopard upgrade. However, even that will be a thing of the past soon.

Remember when we were designing sites to fit on a standard 17″ monitor? Now we’re designing them to fit in our pockets. Same goes for the desktop app. We were sick of installing them, so we moved them to the cloud. Now Apple has helped us bring them back to the desktop.

Here is a look at that journey and some of my favorite web and desktop based apps.

The Rush To Web Apps

What was your first real web app? Mine was Gmail.

I remember telling everyone they were crazy if they we’rent using it. Early adoption of the cloud I’d say. (Cloud – I don’t even like that term.) I was syncing contacts, calendar entries and my e-mail across many computers. “Fantastic!” I would rave.

The introduction of Google Docs really kicked in the productivity of a person and their browser.

Here are some of my favorite web apps to date:

  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Basecamp
  • Highrise
  • Hootsuite
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • WordPress

Less and less I was using applications like Outlook, Thunderbird, Office, and even AIM instant messenger. Give me a browser on any operating system and I could be fully functional.

The concept of putting everything on the cloud has become more and more common over the last 2 years. Why worry about losing data locally when you can store it in the puffy white sky?

Well I’ll tell you why, because even the cloud has problems.

So here we are, 2011, happily humming along with being productive in our browsers. But wait. What’s this monkey wrench Apple has thrown our way?

Apple Re-Invents The App

Leave it to Steve Jobs to re-brand the App as we know it.

Long gone are the days of buying the $59 dollar box with a jewel case clanking around inside. Now you’re more likely to drop 99-cents via you’re iPhone on Angry Birds or some other time killing game. More recently, Apple announced the App store for the desktop. On-demand access to software for your Mac Desktop in an iTunes like store front. (I’m going to go ahead and predict that in a year, software will be available for Windows too.)

Now I’m at a cross roads.

Where I love all my browser based productivity, these apps are just so damn sexy! I’m finding myself using these gorgeous apps more and more.

Here are my favorite Mac Desktop Apps:

(Pro Tip: Once upon a time, I used Gmail as my instant message platform. I realized it impacted my productivity when I popped in to check e-mail and someone would start a conversation with me and kill time. Since then, I’ve set my auto sign-in to off and strictly use Adium to chat. Hopefully that helps you too.)

App vs Cloud

So what will it be? Run your apps in the cloud or on your desktop?

So far I’m loving the desktop apps again. They’re quick, beautiful, and add even more function than their web based counterparts. I don’t spread across to many computers anymore. I use my MacBook Air as my day-to-day and an iMac at my studio.

So are you falling back into this trend? Have apps made a return for you? I’m curious, so let me know in the comments!

2 Comments

So, I guess you’re not going to run out and buy a Chomebook 😉

Great points, Matt. Everything was going to web-based apps and now mobile has turned that around, and impacted the PC platform…

What will be interesting to watch is the evolution of HTML5 and the promise of the best of both worlds… Until then, I do find myself drawn more and more into pure online offerings… I just don’t want much tied to specific pieces of hardware anymore… that, to me, is the beauty of many mobile apps – beautiful, rich interface, but tied to the cloud behind the scenes…

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