The Desktop or the Browser: Is the Netbook Escalating the Battle?

Wednesday I'll be speaking at OpenSource World on The Desktop or the Browser: Is the Netbook Escalating the Battle?

One of the things that has worried me is how people are living more and more in their browser. I myself am guilty of this. I use the browser to check my mail, calendar, read news, track my todo list, check my bank account, check on friends, upload pictures …

People doing everything in their browser scares me not because I think everyone should use the desktop but rather because I don't think the browser is the best user tool for doing all those things.

I think the browser is great. I use it all day, every day. But by limiting ourselves to the browser, we are limiting our user experience and the power of the desktop. I think Fabrizio Capobianco stated it really well in his post A World without the Browser:

I haven't seen one single implementation of a browser on a mobile
device that actually makes the experience good (not great). […] Clicking is a pain.
Zooming and panning is a super-pain. You click when you want to scroll.
You yell.

[…]

Now
let's talk about Mobile Apps. They are built for interaction without a
mouse. With one finger (the other hand holding the device). They are
quick, immediate, intuitive, interactive.

If I have to choose
between checking the weather on my PC or on my iPhone, what do I
choose? The iPhone. One click. Done. I do not have to sit, open the
browser, click and re-click and maybe even type my zip code. It is
there when I need it.

Applications running natively on the desktop can provide a much better user experience than running an application inside a browser on top of the desktop. Mobile devices like phone and netbooks may make this obvious but the same holds true for a full size desktop.

If you use Twitter or Identica, do you use the web page interface or do you use Gwibber or Thwirl or Twidroid? (If you said the web page interface, I strongly recommend you try one of the apps as you are missing out.)

Devices with small screens will ultimately make the desktop experience better for everyone but only if we deliver applications that make the experience better. A desktop and a browser are not enough. "Web applications" that you access through the browser are not enough. We need applications that take advantage of the power the desktop has to offer.