A few weeks ago, my computer crashed. Suddenly, I was fully living in the cloud, depending on Gmail for my email, Google Calendar for my calendar, until I could get Outlook up and running again. And I realized that despite Google wanting the browser to be the interface to everything, software applications still have a place — with Twitter being a case in point.
Plenty of people start off using Twitter on the web. But as you get into it, you realize how much better your experience is when you use a dedicated application like Twhirl or Tweetdeck. Light and easy to install, they provide many features that Twitter on the web does not. They also provide a better user experience for those who want to interact with Twitter.
That brings me back to Gmail. I love Outlook. It’s an outstanding email / contact manager / calendar client. But it’s heavy, and it’s a pain when you need to reinstall it. It doesn’t remember all those account settings you have, how you want your email to display, signatures for your email, what “day of the week” you want your calendar to start on and so forth.
So why not shift fully to Gmail, which remembers everything? The “client” in the browser is still clunky. Sometimes I want to open several “email windows.” Or with Google Calendar, I want to see a month at-a-time with that meaning four weeks, not literally a particular month. Most important, I use multiple Google accounts. If I sign into Gmail with one, I’m stuck with that, having to sign-out into another. (Moving From SpamCop To Gmail & Loving POP Download With Archiving explains more about why I like Outlook as a client to Gmail).
A Gmail client would solve this. I’d be able to log into my main Gmail account without worrying about whatever else was going on with my browser. Those who worry about Google tracking them when logged in would be especially reassured by a client. Plus, I suspect a better user interface could be crafted. (I could use Yahoo’s Zimbra, I suppose, but I found it also kind of heavy).
With few exceptions, Google doesn’t provide apps for its software (Picasa and Google Earth are examples of those exceptions). Google pushes the Chrome browser because it fully believes that the browser is the way forward when it comes to software applications — those applications will live in the cloud, and the browser will be the universal user interface.
I hope Google thinks beyond the browser, Chrome or another. Using Adobe AIR or anything that can give me and others a lightweight, multi-platform application that can access our cloud data (and our preferred user settings). The browser can remain a universal backup, but for many, I think custom applications still can enhance the user experience.