When you look around at all the software that’s being written afresh nowadays- without any legacy whatsoever, you’ll notice something – the product looks and feels and behaves exactly the same across all your devices and exhibits the same behavior on all operating systems. And most likely – it will be a web based application.
This behavior in software is remarkable because it used to take tons of work to make software behave this way merely a decade ago. When the web was still largely static and ‘software’ meant “application program that runs on your desktop”, there were lots of successful software products that would only work on a specific platform or an operating system. How did they become successful even though they had this limitation? Well, most of the world was running windows and the software was written to work with windows. So, they were adopted by the masses and users were happy. Meanwhile, the software makers made a lot of money.
Web 2.0 changed all of that- not overnight but it started the process of erosion. Erosion takes time. And it has taken time – almost 10 years. But erosion is powerful- it can reduce mountains to soil. Almost no one writes software that is targeted for the desktop anymore-unless it is for a highly specific problem and for a highly specialized domain. Since most start-ups do not target either, almost no software start-up makes desktop software. (Even if they do, they will have a web version.) Instead, they design software that runs on any machine, running any OS, and which works on all browsers. We will see this trend rise and its adoption by big companies will grow because of the way the web has become integrated into our lives.
This means that companies that have relied on operating systems for income will see a decrease in profits (read Microsoft) – unless they find other means. A bit less obvious, perhaps, is the fact that there is a huge potential for a start-up that owns the web application development platform. In other words, make it really easy for people to create software for the web, and you will be the winner.
This realization has already dawned on a couple of companies – Apple and Google most prominently, but they have been rather [intentionally?] narrow in their application of the idea. They have both created a closed ecosystem for developers- Apple with its App Store and Google with its Play Store. So, the developers are still making two versions of all their products. And Amazon is quietly trying to get a foot in the door with its Kindle e-book reader.
There have been some pivotal moments in the short history of software development (to quote Peter Siebel “It has lasted for less than one human lifetime”). The introduction of the first computer – the Eniac was one of them. Then came the punch-card driven computers, the introduction of the FORTRAN programming language, high-level language LISP, the microprocessor era, C and C++, Java and the web 1.0 in the 1990s and Ajax during the last decade. I believe this decade is the one in which in which web apps will really take off.