I've been watching with interest the movings and shakings in the world of Web-based applications over the last few months. It's no secret that we're standing in the middle of a resurgance of the Web. While they're not particularly new, technologies like AJAX and Adobe's Flex are shifting the playing field for developers. No longer is the desktop the primary focus, and instead coders are able to focus on building applications for delivery in a browser.
Pressures in collaboration, ever-increasing bandwidth, and the ability to write code that will run on any platform (within a browser) are conspiring to make the Web the next frontier for software development. Just about every developer I know has a Gmail account to use on the road, and now that Google is launching an online spreadsheet to complement its online calendar, it's clear where this is all heading. The company previously acquired Writely, an online word-processing and collaborative tool, and it's only a matter of time before the company offers a full online office suite.
It's not just Google, though. Microsoft is looking at ways to avoid losing out to Yahoo! and Microsoft and is launching its Live initiative to offer online access to calendars and other tools. Later this year, ThinkFree is also planning to launch an online productivity suite to compete with the other tools on the market.
While these tools are currently pitched at consumers, do we really have to wait for long before the corporate world starts to adapt as well? Companies like Salesforce.com are proving that compelling business models are starting to emerge. Indeed, closer to home, Builder AU uses Omniture SiteCatalyst to track site metrics, and the entire interface is also accessed through a browser.
Though not much has been made of it so far, I think this is a massive opportunity and cause for celebration amongst developers. After years of having to write applications for specific platforms (usually Microsoft), and having to then worry about porting to other platforms as customers dictate, we're finally getting to the stage where the OS is irrelevant.
Java is built around the 'write once, run anywhere' philosophy, but being able to write powerful applications that sit in a browser window and take advantage of server-side processing opens up enormous and compelling new markets for developers.