web 2.0 applications – the time is (not) now

As reported by Josh Catone in the excellent blog read/write web, a new study claims that web-based applications or web apps are beginning to enjoy mainstream fame, if not acceptance, and acceptance, if not actual use.  A web app is essentially a website that replaces a task previously performed using software on the PC — i.e. using Google Docs or Gmail instead of Microsoft Word or Outlook. According to the company that conducted the study, e-mail and game applications are “already spreading rapidly through the PC user base.” Work and office applications have been slower to take hold. The study concluded that some users are already to switch over to web apps entirely.

So to recap, e-mail and games are big winners while applications that help us work smarter are being shunned as too new, too risky, too untested. Is that supposed to be progress? Well, it might be a sign of progress if it means that users would be willing to give up their Microsoft Word, Excel, or Outlook if only their boss would let them. In other words, the #1 barrier to mass adoption of web-based applications is that managers are more comfortable over-paying for features they neither understand nor need in a product than they are taking the slightest risk on less costly applications that could make their companies more prodcutive. And why shouldn’t they take that attitude? After all, corporate America, and our profession in particular, is quicker to punish mistakes than to reward progress, and is famously intolerant of change. It’s the perfect storm of resistance — the software buyer is too scared to take a chance or admit that he/she doesn’t understand a product’s features or benefits, and is easily sold b software salespeople willing to lie their asses off for a commission … and so the cycle of economic life continues. Beautiful. Really beautiful.

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