Rich Internet Apps to Replace Desktop Software?

It’s amazing what some companies are managing to do with the web browser. These applications exhibit some of the latest techniques in what is being termed “rich internet application” development (or RIA for short). AKA “Web 2.0”, RIA is a combination of technologies that improve the user experience, making web applications behave more like Windows/Mac ones. Microsoft are getting worried. Their own offering is Office Live, which has been suspiciously quiet for a while now. I am sure they are not yet panicking as these are still somewhat embryonic, and with the prevalence of powerful PCs, I’m not sure people will be ready to switch just yet. They do, of course, also rely on a permanent Internet connection: not something that can always be guaranteed.

Here’s a quick round-up of what we’ve found available or in beta right now:

Office Tools

Google Docs
Web browser-based set of basic office tools – word processor, spreadsheet, presentation. Also Google Calendar for time planning. Free or paid versions.

Zoho Office
In my view, a lot more advanced than Google’s offering. Also has a lot more components One that Microsoft should keep an eye on (or buy?!)

ThinkFree
Looking very similar to Microsoft Office, and popular with reviewers, this is well worth a look.

Zimbra
Yahoo entered the “online office apps” race last week (sept 07) when it acquired them for $350 Million. Initially an alternative to Microsoft Exchange, it has grown into a full suite of office tools.


A review of some of the above office tools can be seen here.

Operating Systems

These are all similar in mimicking Windows or Mac all within a browser window. Right now they are fun, but whether they could really take on real operating systems remains to be seen…however we know how fast the computing world moves, so don’t rule it out!

Ajax Windows
Ajax13 also have a suite of office tools. Their OS looks like Windows but unfortunately is not as smooth to use. Its very clunky and slow right now.

YouOS
Nowhere near as slick as Ajaxwindows. Similar concept.

EyeOS
This looks the slickest so far, and seems a lot more complete than the others. More of a Mac-like interface.