Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Good Consumer Apps Don’t Expose the Filesystem

Consumer apps are moving to the cloud. No news there, we all know it. One unifying characteristic of well designed cloud-based applications is that they don’t expose the file system to the user. Do you think about the file system on Gmail? What about when you are using Google Docs?

The computer filesystem is an engineering concept, designed by the geeks who created computers. It has nearly no useful purpose in mainstream computing.

Apps that expose the filesystem are uniformly focused on the wrong level of the problem if they are being pitched at consumers. The best example would be the consumer backup services out there like box.net and Mozy. These are fine services for small businesses. But as a consumer, forget about it. Use a hosted service in the cloud that solves the underlying problem.

Don’t backup your email, use Gmail. Don’t Backup your photos and videos. Use Phanfare to manage them. What if you want to create a spreadsheet? Use google docs. What about backing up your tax forms form TurboTax? Just use the web version! Any service that promises to sync your hard drive to the cloud is a waste of time. But wait you say. How do I backup all my personal files that I create with MS office? You have lots of files you create with MS Office? You are not mainstream. You probably look more like a small business, in which case, soak in the file system.

Consumer devices can be divided along similar lines. The Blackberry and iPhone are both great consumer devices and neither one shows you the file system. The Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation both have available web browsers, but no user-visible file system to corrupt. On the other hand, the standard Windows PC shows you the file system and PCs are notoriously difficult for consumers to keep running and manage. Macs are really only slightly better.

We will eventually see a great consumer appliance that allows you to access the internet, run a web browser and do everything you want to do while providing no access to the underlying file system. This embedded device will probably run some form of Unix under the covers but that will be transparent to the consumer. A good bet is that the first such device will be a multi-touch tablet computer from Apple.

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