The potential for rich, dynamic applications that run through a browser and are hosted remotely is a key selling point for so-called Web 2.0. Now we are seeing some of the realization of that potential, and Apple looks to be positioned to effectively leverage these new applications. I offer Zimbra as a case in point. Zimbra is a company that has created a rich AJAX application allowing one to view vast amounts of disparate content easily.
Zimbra can see the usefulness of AJAX and has built a pretty impressive tool, and I have only used the hosted demo they have available on their site. Not only are they using AJAX to push the processing onto the client but they are leveraging the huge code base of free software, like Postfix, MySQL, Apache, Asterix, etc. to develop and extend their tools. This is shrewd since it has recently been shown that Free Software and Open Source (my good freind hesa is rolling his eyes) software have significantly fewer bugs than proprietary software.
The big deal about all this is that Apple recognizes this and is partnering with Zimbra. The tools that Zimbra develops might canabalize users away from some of Apple’s tools. There are also some redundant aspects to all this; Apple already ships Postfix and Apache installed for example, and firefox is easy to download. But Apple also sees that this is a way to provide a rich client (and server) for the enterprise folks who want the kind of groupware functionality that Outlook provides. This way Apple has an Outlook-killer without having to develop it in house.
I am not crazy about the Zimbra license however. It seems completely unnecessary to have yet another license, especially since Zimbra seems to have worked out an effective business model that could easily leverage the GPL. One wonders if the investors have exerted their influence and forced Zimbra to license their software with irrelevant legalistic mumbo-jumbo. Rather surprising really since the venture cap people all seem to have a pretty good understanding of Free Software, one of them even worked at Red Hat.
As for the tipping point of Web 2.0, yeah, I think this is it. I think this is in fact the manifestation of a new type of software that will be hosted on the network, not on the desktop. This is the big paradigm shift in store for us for the next few years. So ditch Windows, install more memory, and forget about your hardisk because you won’t be needing that anymore, its all already out there.