Another great advantage to webapps is that it’s easy to “try before you buy”, you can login and try the demo or a low function version of the software, if you want more functionality you can subscribe to the the service, if you don’t want it any more then just stop the subscription.
This does have a few draw backs, traditionally when you buy, download and install you have a copy of the software, forever. So it the company goes bust, the licensing model changes or support is stopped you still have the software on your computer and you are free to use and reuse it. Webapps though don’t have this luxury, if the company goes bust, the licensing model prices you out of the market, changes to Terms and Conditions or the server goes down then you simply don’t have access any more.
Webapps also have other trade-offs. The biggest problem for webapps is speed. Web-applications are written using interpreted code, this means that the web-browser reads the code using a language close to what a human can understand. Typically desktop PC software is written in a programming language and compiled to something understandable by the computer, in the computers native language (hence native code). For interpreted code the web-browser has to read the code, work out what each instruction means and convert it to a form that it understands each time the software is run. This does provide a bit of a performance and memory cost. Many modern browsers are though very good at doing this task, desktop computers are becoming increasingly powerful, so most users day to day don’t notice the performance bottlenecks. It’s mainly when you have complex data-processing tasks, or where you have embedded devices which don’t have the performance processing capabilities that these problems are observed.
Webapps though can be stored and used on devices. For example HTML 5 now introduces offline mode so if you loose internet connection the webapp is cached in your browser, and your files and settings re-synchronised with the web when you reconnect.
The future is certainly bright for the web and all those who can see opportunities to harness its advantages and capabilities.