The end of desktop software

Our engineering team has grown quite a bit, and I needed to better track our 1.0 release process. It has been a while since I have directly managed an engineering project, but I have done it before with Microsoft Project. So I order it and it arrives a couple of days later.

I then had a very bizarre experience, almost like an archaelogical dig. It was a shrink wrapped box entitled "Microsoft Project 2003". 2003??? This code hadn't been touched in three years! I opened the box (yes, it is still a pain) and took out the CD and installed the software. I haven't installed software like this in years.

I then entered everybody's tasks, task hierarchies, and such. Project was incredibly difficult to use, stuff that should have been obvious was very obtuse. Then I wanted to publish the Gantt chart in HTML for our intranet. Tried for hours. Couldn't do it. Finally I printed out the chart, taped six sheets of paper together, and posted it on the wall in our bullpen. Unbelievable.

We have now found an online project manager that we are going to move to after the 1.0 release. Everyone gets an account and can log in and update their tasks. The Gantt chart is online updated in real time. We did not have to buy any software. We are subscribed to a service that is easy and intuitive to use with a rich, Web 2.0 user interface.

[Update: the online project manager we are using is Basecamp. It rocks.]

I think it is pretty clear that software as we know it is now over. No one uses traditional desktop software anymore. Any desktop software people use is meant to enable publishing and communication, ranging from photo managers to IM. Even ActiveGrid's Application Builder is essentially a publishing tool. You build an application that ties together existing services, and then you deploy it to your ISP (virtually all ISPs run LAMP) with the deployment wizard. There is no need to install or configure any software. It's Do-it-Yourself Sofware-as-a-Service!