Friday, November 20, 2009

Online software development for netbooks?

Netbooks are a gathering storm. The average PC user doesn't need a fully featured computer with gigabytes of memory and storage space as most people live in either the web browser or whatever email client they use. So it's no surprise that, as more people realize that they don't need full PC's, netbook sales are picking up. But, while there's a lot you can do with a netbook today, there are still some things that just aren't yet possible.

Imagine for a moment that you're a software developer. Unless you work in a corporate enviroment, you're probably nearly solely developing web based applications and that kind of development doesn't require 'big iron' at all. A copy of Visual Studio for ASP.NET or Silverlight developers, or maybe Eclipse if you're into PHP is really all you need.

Unfortunately, those tools require a PC and, sometimes, require quite a bit of PC muscle to run.

Now imagine moving those tools to the cloud? What if Microsoft created a web version of Visual Studio targeted only towards ASP.NET and Silverlight developers? The software lived on the web and, maybe, was hosted in an Windows Azure account. You'd develop, test, and deploy your software all on the web. No need to download anything, no need for big resources.

Eclipse and other software tool makers could do the same and, effectively, the only people that couldn't live off of a netbook would be corporate developer and even they could live there most times. It wouldn't matter what your OS was or where you accessed from, everything would be in the cloud.

If Google, Microsoft and their ilk are smart, this is going to be part of their online strategy very soon. There's just no need for a 10,000 horsepower PC anymore and, to be honest, it's about time. Most people want simplicity, ease of use, and most of all, good prices. Netbooks deliver on that in spades and the time is right to move them deeper into the masses.

What would you need in order to make a netbook your primary (only?) machine? What is your 'must have' application(s) that keeps you bound to big hardware? Can you even conceive of living on a netbook?