Note: this is a random thought.
I sit here with my reasonably freshly reinstalled Mac (after I dropped a magnet on the hard drive at the beginning of the year, and then sat around for a while half heartedly trying to recover data off the old hard drive so i could send it off to apple for a replacement - until i got bored and just bought a new one twice the size) and I struggle to find applications to install. So far I have come across 2, and only 2, which I cannot live without. Even that could be reduced to one if I really wanted to: the web browser (Firefox, in this case).
For interest purposes, the second is MSN messenger - there is a browser-based version but as yet it is far from fully functional and to be honest it's appalling to use. The cynic in me may suggest that that is because it has been designed by Microsoft to work in IE. Even the client application itself I could almost live without. There are times when I either dont feel like talking to any of the people on it or it's inappropriate to do so but if I was to try and live without it full time I think I would probably start to struggle - as a time-filler, organizational, or even professional tool it can be second to few at what it does.
So here I am. I have my MSN client and my single browser window open with an array of 9 tabs providing a window into an area of my online life - 4 related to Lussumo, 2 social networks, an industry news-type site (theregister), a geek site (lifehacker), and now, following my huge data loss, google email. The latest addition to that sentence is what leaves me in this very ponderous position of just how effective and encompassing such a simple tool as a web browser has now become - as I mentioned, since I lost a seriously large chunk of data (and, infact, my life - that data has been with me for a number of years now) in the crash, and following a post on LifeHacker, I decided that I would set up a Google Apps account on my primary domain name, and route email from my other email accounts into this one box. All my mail falls in there, gets filtered automatically, filed away, and sits there waiting until I need it for some reason or another - parallel to this process the mailbox also gets checked by my phone every few minutes so I know if I need to check it. For those 2 reasons I have just decided I am not going to bother configuring my Mail client. This is a decision I am still not sure about because if it so happens that I end up somewhere with no web access and I urgently need some information from my email account then I will be unable to access it - then again that sort of situation doesnt happen very often and even if I configured Mail to use IMAP, with the fantastic UI google mail provides I'd probably still rather access it through a browser.
Of course there are other applications I could install - an office suite (though, again, that can be handled somewhat impressively by Google Docs, part of the Google Apps package), an FTP client, and so on - and I have no doubt that I may install some of these in the not too distant future, but this is almost entirely from a comfort viewpoint and not a technical one.
I lied when I said I'd only installed 2 applications, I've actually installed 3 - VMWare Fusion. Ahhh virtualisation, another wonderful buzz-word of the 'Web 2.0' era - and what a fantastic technology it is. I can sit here on my OSX 10.5 macbook, using both Windows and Linux as if they were part of the package - what's more I can pick up those virtual machines and move them around with very little difficulty and replicate my 'living' environment to within impossibly small differences wherever I choose.
I am also a big fan of Mobile Technology - I work in professional services for a managed service company which is building up a mobile division of which I am heavily integrated - we recently attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where EVERYTHING is about ubiquitous high speed network access and location based services. In the direction technology is heading, and the rate it is moving, I can forsee a point at which by holding a mobile device mixed with virtualisation and hosted solutions you will be completely at home wherever you are in the world, and this both scares and excites me. I wonder if we are putting too much faith in people like Google (I say people like, I just mean Google - who else is there? Microhoo? Good luck.) but then I suppose we are just about coming full circle back to a Mainframe style environment while the whole IT world diverges and converges in ebbs and flows and it doesnt seem like such a bad concept at all.
This has been a heck of a post, almost certainly completely irrelevant to everyone, and if you're still reading then you're either bored or have impressive stamina. I'm getting quite tired now but thanks for your time. Maybe I should start a blog... in the meantime I'd certainly be interested to hear other people's views on the blurb above.