Vectors Online

aviaryOne of the interesting aspects of cloud computing are programs that run over the web rather than residing on your PC. Examples include Google Documents, Google Calendar, online accounting solutions and online databases. Other programs install on your computer, but run on a constant stream of data from the web, such as Google Earth, or are strongly integrated with the web, such as Picasa. Google Docs and Calendar have fairly limited capabilities compared to programs that reside on a single PC, mostly due to limitations of bandwidth.

In the graphics field, the tentative beginnings of a revolution may be underway. A company named Aviary is offering a suite of programs available online, no installation required. The programs include both an image editor and a vector drawing editor. The drawing tools are frankly primitive compared to those available in Illustrator or CorelDRAW. The fundamental interface is very similar, and it could prove a useful introduction to people learning to use vector packages. As a pointer to the future, however, it is very interesting indeed. If a user could access a professional standard drawing package online, would it make sense any more to install it on your machine  (assuming reliable internet service provision)? Updates and improvements would be instantly available to the user, projects could be stored and distributed online, and collaboration and file sharing would be much easier. The same reasoning would apply to photo editing packages and even page layout programs.

The financial model would be subscription or membership based, with some offerings perhaps free in return for advertising placement. Bandwidth would have to improve dramatically for this to become a reality. Barriers to entry for new software providers would be much lower. Personal computers would become windows to a much larger realm rather than kingdoms in their own right. Perhaps the only role for the home computer would be to mirror the data generated online in as a form of insurance. Perhaps each of the programs to which the user subscribes could have an offline version for moments where the web is unavailable, resynchronising when the connection is restored.