If you believe the hype, the days of Office and Outlook are numbered. Forget Linux distributions and open source; now there’s a real alternative, and you just boot up your browser to try it. Online services and applications have grown up, and they’re ready to take over your daily business, help you communicate and manage your life. Why install when you can just connect?
Blame Google for building the momentum. Once it had launched its own email, chat, voice and mapping services, it seemed only a matter of time before it would go for Microsoft’s jugular with the launch of Google Docs & Spreadsheets
However, Google isn’t alone. Online stalwarts such as Yahoo have been joined by a new breed of startup – Zoho
, 30 Boxes
It’s a nice idea, but does it work? PC Authority decided to put the hype to the test. For a week, I was asked to abandon my desktop apps and work using only their online equivalents. I’m a full-time freelance technology journalist, which means I effectively run a small business, and I also use computers as a part of my non-working life. Could a taskforce of online apps replace the ones I use every day? There was only one way to find out.Notes, guidelines and assumptions
Time for some ground rules. For a seven-day period I’m to forsake all desktop apps and use only the apps and services I can run within a browser. I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate and IE7 on my main system, and Windows Vista Basic and Firefox on a laptop. I’m allowed to use Java applets that download into the browser, but the moment a program or service demands any extra-browser install or download it’s canned. I’m also forbidden to use my usual email package (Thunderbird) and PIM (Outlook).
One final note: all online services hinge on a solid Internet connection. If you live in Sydney or Melbourne or any of our other fine urban sprawls then you probably take this for granted, but living where I do, in an old house in a small country town, my connection suffers from the variable performance of the local exchange. Theoretically, my ADSL2 connection runs at up to 8Mb/s, but it does so in much the same way that I can run at speeds of up to 30Km/h. For a short period it might be possible, but there’s a lot of stalling and wheezing before and after.