Thinking About the Web, the Desktop and the Evolution of CRM Apps

I had an interesting Twitter exchange today with analyst turned social guru Esteban Kolsky. (If you’re not already following him – do so now)  I asked the twitterverse what they felt the possibility of “the browser as the desktop” -thinking about how cloud-based software makes desktop operating systems (at least anything heavy) nearly obsolete.

Think about it, we have our data, our applications and our infrastructures in the cloud – why would be need anything but a thin client laptop and a browser? (After all, isn’t this what the hype around Apple’s tablet/netbook is pointing towards?).

Esteban had an interesting response – essentially pointing out that with RESTful web services – the desktop can become the browser, and thus application development is all about total desktop mashups. Developers need not write to support IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome etc. – just keep the APIs simple and open. So, Esteban went in another, very profound direction here.

An interesting post I read today at Mashable posits four (really three if you split hairs) identifying trends of the web of the future: ubiquity (from both an access point and device front), a rich media focus, and social networks owning the web.

I think if we look at this more realistic near-term prediction (Esteban’s makes more sense from an interoperability standpoint – but in my opinion too many players on the apps, web and OS level stand to lose control and dollars, so I think roadblocks would be thrown up at Esteban’s vision at every turn.) and place it next to the evolution of CRM, some interesting things pop up.

First, both the Web and CRM are becoming more media-rich and more social. Greater mobile access, embedded Youtube videos in home screens, myPortal dashlets exposing external content, and social media integration – and I’m just talking about what SugarCRM alone has done in the last couple years – clearly mimics these trends.

But what is the next stage? Does the “ubiquity” concept merge with CRM data access (and social/media saturation) to involve a new look to CRM? One that is less about logging in to a browser screen and more about accessing data and automating processes in a more seamless, natural manner?

Perhaps both the Mashable article and Esteban are correct. While “the web” is evolving – that does not mean the way we think about accessing the web – the browser – has to follow along. The web-based interactivity of social features like iPhone games, has proven that the web has – and will – deliver a lot of data, applications and value in general without the involvement of a traditional browser.