Web apps provide new way to store data

March 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Computer hard drives keep getting bigger as we store more music, videos and documents. However, there is a better way on the horizon. It's something called "Web applications," and companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are leading the way.

For years, we've installed software and stored files on our computers. However, a change is underway -- a concept called "cloud computing."

"Instead of having a paper calendar, or instead of having a calendar stored on your laptop, you have a calendar that's stored on the Internet," says Jen Grant, product manager for Google Apps.

They're called Web applications or Web apps, provided by companies like Google to write e-mail or blogs, to organize photos, to write documents or to organize our lives.

Privacy becomes a concern as details of our lives are stored on the Internet. Google recently posted 11 videos on YouTube to explain built-in privacy features in Web apps and how to use them. Some have been viewed over 13,000 times.

Dave Murray, for example, is a Gmail product manager. In his video, provided by Google, he explains how to keep chats off-the-record.

"It's certainly great to have more users of the product. Ultimately, we want to make sure that the users that are actually using our products right now feel empowered to use them, that they're comfortable using them, and basically that the products serve the needs that they're trying to fulfill," says Murray.

Karsten Weide, a technology analyst at IDC's San Mateo office, says 15 percent of computer users already are using Web apps and Google's big push will certainly shake things up for Microsoft.

"To Microsoft, of course, it's a pretty serious strategic threat because if Web services take off, which we think they will, and if Google gets the bigger share of that pie, then that's bad for Microsoft because that's going to be money that's going away from their current software business," says Weide.

Weide says Web apps are free for consumers, but later could feature ads, or you could pay a fee to be ad-free.