Another web desktop (webtop), AjaxWindows, launched and I’m left scratching my head. The site and service is allegedly from the creators of Linspire and is a lot like DesktopTwo, which mimics a desktop environment within your browser, taskbar and all. AjaxWindows even comes with a syncing client to help mirror all your desktop data to their servers. The major value proposition for these sites is to let you access your desktop anywhere, but I think they’ve gotten the user interface metaphor all wrong.
Desktops function as ways to organize and manage applications on our operating system. Browsers serve this function for web applications. If I want to check my email, I go to Gmail. If I want to check my finances, I check out my bank’s web page. Managing these applications is best done within the tabs of my browser, not a processor intensive ajax webtop. Ironically it also has a web browser.
There’s no value added by being able to overlay my web applications in ajax windows. Moreover, any platform’s utility is linked to the quality and number of applications developed on it. In the best case scenario, AjaxWindows has to mimic the best web applications on the net within their own service. In the worst case, it simply becomes an elaborate ajax wrapper for those applications.
There have been several other takes on bringing desktop functionality to the web. EyeOS takes an open source approach, YouOS is in alpha, and DesktopTwo is aiming at enterprise clients. Other variants of interfaces for accessing your online life anywhere include start pages like Netvibes, Pageflakes, and Goowy. Further blending the line between the web and your desktop are Adobe AIR, Silverlight, Dekoh, and Mozilla’s yet-to-be-released Parakey.