Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Have You Reached Your Personal Software Tipping Point?

teeter.jpgBy Dennis D. McDonald

Something happened today that made me realize I may be reaching my personal "tipping point" between the old world of desktop-centric applications and the brave new world of network-centric applications.

Without thinking, I scrolled down to the bottom of my laptop's screen, double clicked on the "always on top" Windows XP toolbar, and waited.

Nothing happened. I clicked again. Still nothing.

Then I hit my forehead with the palm of my hand. I realized I had unconsciously transferred my "click to open new tab" behavior from my Firefox browser to my Windows desktop.

I sat back and thought about this. I may have just reached a significant milestone. I was beginning to transfer behavioral expectations from my browser -- an application that connects me with the outside world -- to my operating system's user interface.

After some reflection I realize I've been spending more and more time using my browser. I've even started wishing that iTunes wasn't a standalone application and was accessible through Firefox and its multiple tabs. My heaviest usage via the browser includes:

  • Yahoo! Mail (paid version) which I use when I'm not using Eudora to manage my Verizon email.
  • Dabble DB (my contact and prospect tracking, which has replaced MS Access).
  • Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which I'm using more and more for basic documents, especially when they have to be shared.
  • Squarespace, my blogging supplier, which is 100% web-based.
  • RawSugar, ConnectBeam, Cogenz, and BlinkList for social bookmarking (keeping track of how I allocate coverage across these four is, indeed, a challenge; I should probably consolidate).
  • Wizz, Grazr, and Google Reader for feed management and access.
  • Megite for personalized news feed access.
  • Linkedin for professional networking.
  • SlideShare for sharing PowerPoint presentations.
  • Flickr for photo sharing.

Standalone machine based apps include:

  • Eudora, my Verizon email workhorse (its user interface is a bit long in the tooth but it's solid and reliable)
  • Irfanview, which I use for basic graphic editing (I wish it were available for the Macintosh)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (which I have used recently to create presentations that can be made available via SlideShare)
  • Microsoft Word, for those occasions when i absolutely gotta have a Swiss Army Knife word processor (e.g., the editing, search, and replace tools for text reformatting)
  • WordPad, for basic text editing.
  • iTunes for music file management (I no longer buy from iTunes due to the DRM complication).

When on projects, too, you'll be likely to see me obsessing over MS Project and MS Excel.

For some people this "local versus remote" question is almost a religious issue. I no longer feel that Microsoft is the "evil empire." It's just a humongously big and successful software company that is trying to find its way in a world that is increasingly turning away from the business models that made it great.

People are not turning away from machine-centric applications because they are running away from something but because they are finding web-served applications that do what needs to be done ... and more. 

If I were part of a large corporation my attitude would probably be quite a bit different, but I'm an independent consultant. I maintain relationships and work with many different organizations. I adjust my working style to the needs of each client.

This requires agility. What I'm beginning to see is that web based applications do support an agile working style where relationship management, content sharing, and collaboration are increasingly important.

Now if I could just get Windows XP to behave more like my browser...


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