The potential of desktop Linux + SAAS
Desktop Linux plus RIA/SAAS equals a free, lightweight and reliable operating system with many applications running on it of roughly comparable quality to those currently available on Windows or OSX. However, for this to become more than a niche market it depends on three assumptions as far as I can tell.
One, high speed Internet access is on course for being ubiquitous and people are comfortable with their sensitive personal data being transmitted over the web. Recent reports about the explosion of Internet Christmas shopping would seem to bear this out at least for the UK.
Two, all major desktop apps will eventually be rewritten as RIA’s. We’ve already seen that key business apps like Office and Photoshop are in the works. Apps like 3D Studio Max may take a lot longer to emerge, but I wouldn’t say that the absence of 3D Studio Max is much of a deal-breaker for people happy to use a cheap and cheerful laptop for all their computing.
Three, people are willing to pay for software as a subscription or put up with advertisements being in their face all day. In my opinion it won’t be long until we hear about people with a high tolerance for sponsored messages doing all their computing completely for free. Just browsing the web or using Google already exposes us to a lot of this, so it probably won’t be much of a leap.
Personally I look forward to a day when all operating systems are as lightweight as possible and only exist to provide the necessary substrate for runtimes like Flash, Silverlight or JavaFX. Microsoft’s Singularity project could be worth watching in this respect. Perhaps Web Development agencies will end up dropping the “Web” from their professional designation?