Switzerland-based deskNET is debuting the public beta version of Sobees today, an application that aims to bring the web to a personalized desktop environment. We first came across Sobees when they presented their project in the DemoPit at the TechCrunch50 conference.
While many startups are heading in the opposite direction by trying to take the best of the desktop experience inside the browser, Sobees’ goal is to aggregate various web applications and services into a customized desktop environment instead, including search, weather updates, RSS feeds, YouTube videos, social networking sites, etc.
The bootstrapped startup wants to provide a seamless user experience fit for a mainstream audience when it comes to accessing online content or handling repetitive internet tasks, without the need to constantly switch between browser windows, tabs and multiple desktop apps. Customizable start pages like Netvibes, iGoogle / Google Desktop and MyYahoo are the biggest challengers, as well as the widgets you can add to your Mac or Windows Vista desktop.
Sobees also boasts a number of social features like interacting with friends, sharing data and news articles, as well as integration with video and photo sharing services. Sobees allows you to update your status messages across Facebook and Twitter, and also enables you to drag and drop media files and easily transfer them to a variety of services, e.g. dragging pictures to the desktop environment and uploading them directly to your Flickr account. Ubervu has a similar approach.
Sobees plans to make money from search monetization, advertising and selling branded modules.
Sobees sports an excellent design and has obviously paid much attention to the usability of the service (the ribbon menu is really cool) but one has to wonder if there’s a real need for this type of service. As fancy as it may be, it doesn’t solve a real problem, not one I’m aware of anyway.
Another barrier to take into account is the fact that Sobees can only be installed on machines running Windows Vista / XP with the yet-to-be-distributed .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 for now, although a Silverlight build is currently on the roadmap. I also experienced some problems launching and accessing the application after installing.
I embedded a demo video below which gives a good overview of the main functionalities (sexy voice over included).