Another false dawn for our Web-centric world



Jack Schofield

Opinion

Yet again, reality is failing to live up to the hype, which for the past five years has been promising a...



Jack Schofield

Opinion

Yet again, reality is failing to live up to the hype, which for the past five years has been promising a brave new Web-centric world.

When the hucksters were people like Sun's Scott McNealy and Oracle's Larry Ellison, this did not bother me much. But Microsoft has been moving the same way with .Net, and is spending billions of dollars to implement it.

I have no argument with the idea. I regularly use a desktop PC, a Mac, a notebook PC, two handhelds and two palmtops. I would love to have the same address book, calendar and to-do list on all of them, preferably in Outlook 2000 format.

I would also love to have all my data on the Web, for two reasons. First, I should be able to access it from any computer with a browser. Second, having "master copies" on the Web should make it easier to synchronise all the separate devices.

If you have tried, you will know that it is impossible. Even if you junk the Mac, the Psion Series 5 and the Palm-compatible Handspring Visor, and stick to synchronising Outlook 2000 to Pocket Outlook (on my PocketPC devices) or Microsoft Hotmail, it does not work quite well enough. Yet.

Even if it is due to rival companies failing to deliver, moving to an all-Microsoft universe was definitely not the original idea.

Still, this is not what has shattered my illusions. Having BT's new broadband ADSL at home, delivering 512kbps through a four-port router to an Ethernet card, has done that, because the high-speed, always-on Internet connection means I can no longer blame dial-up modems for the clunky design and mediocre performance of Web-hosted applications.

As a professional "early adopter" I am willing to suffer more - and pay more - than most people. If Web-centric systems don't work well enough for me, what chance do they stand in the mass market?

Jack Schofield is computer editor of The Guardian

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