Ray Ozzie [1] has a…

Ray Ozzie has a couple comments about the digital dashboard I pointed to yesterday.  Ray does have some good points in his critique.  Activities with specific modalities should be grouped.  Like Ray I don’t believe a dashboard is the place you should do all your work.  However, it can be a place where you can get an overview of your applications (specifically what they are doing for you and maybe a taste of what they contain), a jumping off point, and a place that you can use to combine information to do new things (of course publishing/sharing springs to mind).  In that way it is more of a replacement for the Windows desktop than it is a replacement for e-mail, office, or instant messaging.

First, a disclaimer, I am not in the digital dashboard business.  However, I like the approach and I am a supporter of exploring where this could go (testing the boundaries).  Here are some additional things to think about (this isn’t necessarily a rebuttal to Ray, but more thinking points to better examine the issue):

1) A dashboard works for many people.  The great success Yahoo has had with myYahoo shows that average users really like this approach.  My wife, my mother in-law, and many others I know do all their computing in the browser.  They were all new to computing in 1997.  Their home page is myYahoo.  Their desktop is the browser.  They are comfortable with it.  I think this is very common. 

2) Much of the resistance to browser dashboards derives from legacy behavior — a familiarity with existing tools (which sprang up at different times and built behavior patterns of behavior that are hard to break).  How many of the 6 b people on this earth use the existing legacy PC apps?  5%?  We are at the infancy of information technology from that perspective.  The trend may also be against this legacy behavior, many of the people that have entered the computing world over the last five years are completely browser centric.

3) New “webby” approaches can lead to superior behavior.  While I generally like my e-mail app, the smooth Google like search capability of Zoe makes me think I am missing the boat.  I also would like to have all the info I have access to presented in a way that makes it easy for me to publish it and manipulate it in ways that make it easily shareable.  Documents and application silos block me from doing this.  

4) The browser as we know it has been hobbled.  It is malformed due to a lack of innovation.  It can do a lot more.  It can be changed to accomodate more desktop PC functionality in application specific ways that don’t seriously impare the simplicity of HTML for the data or for certain aspects of the interface.  Will it do everything?  Of course it won’t, but it could accomodate much more than it has.   I am working on this.

[John Robb’s Radio Weblog]