Software as a service – will it replace my desktop applications? I don’t think so.

by Yash

For some time now Software as a service – SAAS in short – is generating a lot of buzz. People say its the future. In future you won’t have any desktop applications. Everything will be online, word processing, spreadsheet, entertainment, personal information management, CRM everything will be hosted online. People say Google’s online office applications like writely and Google Docs will replace MS Office. I do not think so. Make sure to get a recover data software to protect all your documents.

No matter how powerful the online applications become, they will always have to be accessed through a web browser, that means I will have to rely on FireFox or Internet Explorer to access anything. So executing however powerful and useful SAAS, is at the mercy of the browser. Then it also means every time I want to access any of my documents, I will have to be connected to the net and I will have to have a great bandwidth in order to get my document as fast as I can with a desktop app. Sure Internet bandwidth is improving but will they ever improve to the extent where I can open my document in a second like how MS office does?

Then what if I am in a plane and I want to access one of my files through my laptop or I want to create a PowerPoint presentation while I am in car? Will wireless Internet connection ever be as fast as a wired connection?

Then what technology will be used to build all the web apps? AJAX? Flash? Whatever tech you use, it will have to be loaded in your browser every single time you want to access that app. This will mean wasted bandwidth because the same data is downloaded again and again. It also makes all the power of the latest processors chips useless. There is not much processing to be done left for the chip, all that is now used in my computer is the browser cache and the bandwidth.

The biggest issue with SAAS approach is speed. Sure, storing your word docs, Excel files on Internet makes them accessible form anywhere but I cannot have an icon on my desktop to open my daily used excel sheet. I can create a shortcut on the desktop that takes me directory to my online document but then every time I open that I will have to enter my login name and password. Surely my browser can remember that for me but again the document will not open as fast as it would on my computer within a desktop app.

Another issue is of privacy. How can I be sure that an employee of the company that hosts my docs is not reading my personal data? When I have something on my computer, I have full control over it. When I have my stuff on someone else’s servers, I can’t be very sure about who controls it.

Then there are certain apps which are very powerful to be created online with their complete feature set. Can you create Photoshop as SAAS? What about Auto CAD or Maya? Heck I haven’t even seen a complete replacement for Frontpage or dreamweaver in countless WYSWYG HTML editors out there.

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Speed, Performance and Privacy – these are the area where online apps will always fall behind the conventional desktop apps.