We live in interesting times - where technology is so advanced and yet so "cheap" (relatively) that it's really hard to make prediction what will happen in a few years and which technology will take off and which one won't... or will, but later... it's hard to make bets... yet if you own a technology based startup company like me, you need to bet on the right technology all of the time, and according to the greatest hockey player of all time:
"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." - Wayne Gretzky
The dot-com boom of 2000 showed us that technology company were wrong before and now it's again going in different directions:
Cloud storage is picking up
Google has launched CR-48 Notebook which is entirely based in the cloud, they also launched Chrome Store and their Google Apps offering is taking off. People like me are using cloud apps like Nozbe, Dropbox and Evernote. Browsers are the new OS as they are even capable of going offline.
Apps are taking off
Contrary to Google's assumptions, people are downloading apps like crazy - the programs that you actually install locally - iPhone and iPad Appstore, Mac Appstore, Android Market and other "app stores" are taking off, so contrary to an all-browser solution do we need to invest in locally installed apps?
A company I admire decided to go web-app only route and when they launched Backpack mobile they decided that it's the
best solution for customers as they don't have to download anything and can use it on the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc... They decided they won't invest in local apps.
Evernote & Dropbox way
Contrary to 37signals, Evernote and Dropbox do invest in local apps - they build these for Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, etc... and they actually say they have dedicated teams for each platorms - "it's a headache but it's definitely worth it to make sure the user experience is way better" - so they say.
I have to admit I use both Dropbox and Evernote only locally on my Mac, iPhone and iPad... and I sync data between these... but I don't use the web app. Ever. (I only see my notes on the web when I browse through my Nozbe projects synced with Evernote)
Where's the puck going to be?
The first argument that Web apps will be more powerful has merit... HTML5 is taking off, local storage and offline work is getting support from
various browsers (although some support it better than others) and it really is now possible to be only "online".
The dedicated app argument makes incredible sense, too. With centralized distribution channels like iOS Appstore, Mac Appstore and Android Market, many apps are being downloaded like crazy. Pixelmator earned $1M US Dollars in its first 20 days on the Mac Appstore, Evernote says Mac became their most important platform in terms of new users thanks to Mac Appstore... people do like to buy apps and the user experience of a local app can still be significantly better than the web app.
Will the browser be the next OS? Does it make sense to build dedicated apps? (we have already started this route by building Nozbe for iPhone, iPad and Android (almost done) apps already...) I'm still not sure, it's hard to decide either way.
Decisions, decisions, decisions... and what do you think?