Shocking, I know.
But there is a consistent theme here: Apps. Especially with the iPhone we’ve all been hearing a lot about Apps lately, but what’s most interesting to me is how the concept of apps has completely taken over computing. When I first started using computers, it was all about just running individual software. You bought the program, stuck the disk in the computer, and ran whatever program you wanted to run. Windows began the change away from this restricted view of what the computer was capable of. Suddenly you could run more than one program at once! What’s funny is how much this seemingly simple change began to change how we thought of the computer. Computers stopped being tools that could only do one thing. They started being nexuses where many things came together in one place.
I think that this greatly influenced how the Web developed. While initially the web was simply pages that displayed static information, people were trying to figure out how to get them to do more right from the beginning. Platforms like Java and Flash only helped develop this trend, and now it’s to the point where you almost don’t need to have anything actually installed on your computer other than an Internet browser.
I first found out about how far this had gone about 4 years ago. At that time the library only offered Microsoft Office products on a small handful of computers at each location, and managing time on those computers was an unbelievable pain. I actually was yelled at by a customer for asking someone to vacate one of those computers because she was “only” using it for Internet and another customer wanted to use the Office products. The reason for the restriction at the time was licensing, and fortunately we eventually saw the forest for the trees and ponied up to have it installed on every computer.
But I digress. Around that time someone pointed me to a beta site called Writely, which was an online word processor app. I played around with it and was floored. Why were we monkeying around with licensing and software costs when this was available for free on the web? Now Writely has become Google Docs, but we still have Microsoft Office hanging around.
But for how much longer? There is an app for just about everything you would want to do on the computer available online now, and many of them are completely free. From family trees to maps to games and even the Operating System and hard drive itself! I used to or currently have software for all of those apps, and now all I need is my browser. Even Google Docs can save your file in a variety of formats, so compatibility isn’t an issue, and on top of that multiple users can edit the same document with an efficiency that MS Word can only dream of.
This really is the direction we’re headed in. Everything comes through the browser, and the browser doesn’t have to be limited to a desktop. It can be in a lap, in your hand, or even strapped to your head. So if we’re going to be involved in this development, we need to be there too.
Fortunately, CML has begun to incorporate this sort of functionality by offering some tools for everyone who’s constantly plugged into their browsers. Right now this is just a toolbar that allows you to access common features from our website through the tool bar and a search plugin for the ever-present corner search box. But I know more widgets will be coming! We are there now, and this will only help us connect to customers and show just how much we can do for them.